How to move heavy objects without getting hurt

How to move heavy objects without getting hurt

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with any advertisers on this site.

Are you finding it a little more difficult to lift grocery bags out of the car or carry cooking pots from the stove to the sink? It’s not uncommon as the years pass.

A study of nearly 5,000 adults, published in the journal Work in 2013, found that people in their 40s were able to comfortably hoist 17 percent more weight than those in their 60s. “As we get older, we tend to lose muscle mass, which relates to decreases in strength,” says Jennifer Brach, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh. “If you have less strength, it can be harder to carry something heavy.”

Cardio capacity declines with age, too, so you may tire faster than you used to when carrying a heavy item, says Todd Manini, co-director of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Joint, muscle, nerve and flexibility issues can also make tasks like moving furniture and placing luggage into overhead bins more difficult. Here’s how to make this all easier and ensure that you don’t fall or otherwise injure yourself.

Set yourself up for success

Regular exercise can counteract some declines that make lifting and carrying harder. “As people become more sedentary, they become weaker,” says Manini. Aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity like brisk walking, cycling or swimming weekly. Strength-train at least twice a week to keep your muscles strong. Stretch regularly for flexibility.

At home, place heavy items you use often in easily accessible spots on shelves or cabinets — not high up or low down. Ensure the area is well lit and free of trip hazards. For the same reason, wear well-fitting, supportive shoes that stay securely on your feet when you’re lifting something heavy — no slip-ons.

Whether at home or out, break up loads so that each one is lighter, even if you have to make multiple trips. That may mean fewer items in each grocery bag or a smaller laundry basket. “Think of it as exercise,” says Brach. “The more trips you make, the more steps you’re getting.”

Lift and carry the right way

Prepare your body. Five minutes of walking or marching in place, squats and shoulder rolls will loosen joints and warm up muscles so that they’re ready to work.

Get close. Slide or pull the item you plan to lift toward you — ideally, it should be no more than a few inches away from your body. “The farther away the object is, the more force it puts on muscles and joints,” Manini says.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart. A wide base of support provides stability for lifting. Tighten your abs, too, to help protect your back.

Use your legs, not your back. That means bending your knees and squatting to pick up an object that’s below you (say, on the floor). “Your legs are bigger muscles,” says Manini. “They were designed to do this.” Don’t bend at the waist, because it may strain your back.

Lift with care. Keep your head up and your shoulders back, and hold the object at waist height, close to your body. Then straighten your legs. As you carry the item, stand straight, make sure it’s not obscuring your vision and take small steps. To set it back down, tighten your stomach muscles and squat slowly.

An inexpensive grabber tool extends your reach by up to three feet, which is helpful if you have trouble bending down or getting items on high shelves without a stool. These are useful for lighter items like a can of soup. If you need to use a step stool to reach objects above you from time to time, choose a two-step model with a wide base and a handle to hold on to.

For furniture and other weighty objects, you can slip round disks called sliders underneath them to slide them across a floor. And if you must climb stairs to do laundry, a bag is a safer alternative to a basket. You can pull it while holding on to the stair railing, and it won’t obstruct your vision.

A cart with wheels offers a trouble-free way to move heavy items like multiple full shopping bags when you’re out and about. Many are foldable, so they can be kept conveniently in your car.

A car organizer (these typically have bins, nets or straps) keeps objects from sliding deep into your trunk, where they can be hard to reach. At home or out, if you’re carrying items like books or a laptop, consider a backpack. This evenly distributes the weight and keeps the objects close to your body, which is more comfortable than a bag that you hold at your side or carry on your shoulder.

Copyright 2024, Consumer Reports Inc.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Read more at


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *