11 Tips for Working Out with a Broken Bone

Is it even possible? Let’s find out.

doctor looking at a broken knee

When you break a bone, you may feel discouraged and depressed. Few people enjoy life on the DL, especially if you formally worked out hard. It’s tempting to give in to despair and laze about on your couch.

However, you can exercise even with an injured limb. You simply need to follow your doctors’ orders and modify your routine. By taking it slow and safe, the right plan can speed your healing. Here’s what to do.

  1. Talk to Your Doctor or Physical Therapist

Your orthopedist or physical therapist can recommend the best exercises for you. If you’ve broken a leg or foot bone, they may recommend keeping weight off it all together for a few weeks. However, if you’ve broken your hand or arm, you enjoy greater mobility. Still, you want to avoid moves that could cause you to fall and reinjure the limb.

If you’re working with a physical therapist, you’ll probably get sweating enough during your sessions. They’ll also recommend a training regimen you can do on your own. However, if you lack health insurance coverage or have other financial woes that make regular treatments problematic, try to swing at least one meeting. Many physical therapists offer free consultations and will give you a few pointers gratis.

  1. Start with Gentle Stretches in Bed

The first few days after your injury, you’ll likely spend most of your time in bed. Charge your device and surf over to YouTube. You can find brief stretching workouts you can do without changing your pajamas.

Your neck and back often grow stiff from lying down too long. Release neck and shoulder tension by dropping your right ear toward your right arm. Slowly rotate it forward in a half-circle until you reach the other side.

Avoid hyperextending your neck by tilting it backward. Release your back by performing gentle twists. You can do a modified cat-cow pose by resting your hands on your thighs and alternately curving and extending your spine.

  1. Find New Ways to Raise Your Heart Rate

When you break a bone, your body starts building new blood vessels to bring nourishment to the injury during the first week or two. You can encourage this growth by increasing your heart rate.

If you’ve broken a lower limb, invest in a desktop bicycle you can pedal with your arms while you watch TV. If you hurt your upper body, raise your heart rate while minimizing the risk of falls by standing up from your couch. Sit back down and repeat.

  1. Try Tai Chi

Tai chi embraces both mind and body, but most moves involve no impact. It’s the perfect gentle form of exercise for your recovery. Even if you are wheelchair-bound, you can perform the graceful, upper body movements. Tai chi is also a martial art. This can help you cope psychologically with your injury — you’re not sidelined, you’re cross-training and learning a new skill.

  1. Invest in Exercise Bands

You can find inexpensive exercise bands to suit nearly any budget. These allow you to continue resistance training even if you’re confined to your home for part of your recovery. You can perform biceps curls and shoulder presses with bands in bed if need be. Or, if you’ve injured your upper body, you can do leg extensions and calf raises.

  1. Take It Aquatic

Working out in a pool may speed your recovery if you’re not trapped in a cast you can’t remove. You can’t fall in the water, so as long as someone helps you enter and exit, you won’t risk reinjury. Plus, the buoyancy of the fluid supports the majority of your body weight.

If you’re recovering from a lower-body injury, your physical therapist may recommend walking laps later in your recovery to help you gradually rebuild your leg strength. Moving your arms fluidly in a seated breaststroke motion can help you regain shoulder and elbow mobility.

  1. Use Mobility Aids

It’s understandable. After a few weeks, you’re ready to kick those crutches to the curb. But trying to do too much too soon can exacerbate your injury.

Put your pride on the shelf and use your mobility aids for as long as your doctor recommends. Investigate chair-based exercise programs to minimize the risk of falling. Even if you can stand for short periods, you have a tool to help you keep your balance.

  1. Train on Gym Equipment

If you normally heft heavy dumbbells, switch to using the weight machines at the gym instead. Engineers design such equipment to isolate specific muscle groups. This means you minimize the risk of straining a limb that is still healing. Using machines also prevents you from accidentally dropping some serious poundage on your toes while you rebuild grip strength.

  1. Up Your Yoga Practice

Yoga isn’t simply a form of physical exercise and spiritual practice. It’s therapeutic and can speed healing. Researchers launched over 240 studies of this ancient practice to determine its efficacy in treating a host of ailments.

If you haven’t tried yoga yet, take a class led by a certified instructor. She can help you modify movements to suit your ability. Try to arrive a few minutes early to consult with her. Stick to gentle forms of yoga while you heal.

  1. Take a Walk

Once your doctor clears you to do so, walk as often as you can. If you’re on crutches, try getting up and strolling around your living room once every hour. Go outdoors — the fresh air will boost your mood — and find a soft surface. Many schools have walking tracks with soft rubber substrates. These prove easier on healing knees than walking on concrete.

  1. Gradually Build Back Up to Your Usual Routine

When the cast finally comes off, you may want nothing more than to head out for a jog or a bike ride. However, your muscles will atrophy somewhat during your recovery. Slowly build back up to your previous routine.

If you were a runner, for example, start by walking. Gradually introduce jogging intervals of five minutes or less. If you normally biked 35 miles per week, start with a 1-mile ride to a nearby store. You will regain your former strength in time.

You Can Exercise Carefully While You Heal

injured woman working out on an exercise ball with bands

It’s difficult, but not impossible, to exercise while your broken bone heals. Listen to your doctor and follow the tips above. Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery!

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Kate Harveston

Written by Kate Harveston

Kate Harveston is a women’s health writer from Pennsylvania, and the writer and editor of So Well, So Woman. You may have seen her over at sites like Greatist, POPSUGAR, Thought Catalog, Bust or YourTango. Kate enjoys writing about women’s reproductive health and aims to use So Well, So Woman to bring a unique voice to the reproductive, sexual, relationship and mental health issues that young women are facing growing up in today’s world.

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