Low Impact Exercise to Maintain Fitness While Injured

It used to be accepted wisdom that if you injured yourself then you avoided any kind of physical activity, but now we know that it is important to stay active while healing. Not only does a fitter, healthier body heal faster, but it also regulates pain much more effectively. So next time you get hurt, find a way to keep burning calories.

The tricky part is, of course, finding an exercise routine that won’t exacerbate your injury. The best way to avoid this is to discuss your situation with your doctor who is intimately familiar with your physical and mental condition so he can make the most informed recommendations.

Some Easy Ways to Remain Active while Injured

If you are moderately or severely injured, then you are probably not up for doing your regular workout routine, but you may be able to tweak your workout so that you can still feel active. You may want to modify your routine in the following ways:

  • Take your workout outdoors—you may not be able to go full speed through your fitness routine but being outdoors may provide just as much satisfaction. Not only will getting off the couch help boost your mood, but it should also provide a much-needed diversion from worrying about your present state of health.
  • Make it a light workout—if you are on your way back to full health, you can certainly try easing back into your regular workout habit. Take great care not to re-injure yourself.  Go at half or quarter speed; for example, you may want to try speed walking instead of a full jog. Finally, shorten the amount of time you spend in the gym until your physician gives you the green light.
  • Expand your warm-up—you probably have a series of exercises you do to prepare for your main workout. You may want to instead substitute these warm-up stretches and light cardio for your regular routine.
  • Physical therapy—it may seem like a medical treatment, but because so much of physical therapy involves repetitions of various motions that are intended to strengthen and limber up key joints and muscles, it can often feel like a workout. A physical therapist can also work very closely with you so that you avoid worsening your injury while ensuring you recover more quickly.
  • Hire a personal trainer—it may cost you a few extra dollars but having a fitness professional by your side to advise you can make an enormous difference in preventing injury and healing progression.

Exercises for the Injured

There are many possible exercises for those not severely injured. In fact, you can probably find a customized exercise routine for almost any injury that isn’t completely debilitating—ask any Paralympian. Here are some popular forms of exercise among the injured that you may want to try out or, at least, draw some inspiration from.

  • Swimming—swimming can be a full-body workout that pushes you to your cardiovascular limits, but you can customize it to fit your needs. If you have a leg injury, can paddle with your arms while on a float; likewise, if your arm is injured, just focus on your legs. Swimming also has the advantage of being almost no impact, so it is easy on your joints.
  • Aqua running—if you want to get back to running, but the pain is still too great to bear, you may want to consider aqua running. Similar to regular jogging except that it is done in a swimming pool, aqua running minimizes impacts while still providing a decent workout because of the resistance of the water.
  • Cycling machine—another low-impact exercise that provides plenty of cardio is the stationary bike. You probably don’t want to brave the roads on a bike while injured, but a good cycling machine workout can get your heart pumping.
  • Weightlifting—you don’t need to pump tons of iron to get a workout sweat going. You just need to do as many reps as possible without straining yourself. Focus, of course, on areas of the body that are not injured, but you may also want to ease recovering muscle groups into the rotation as well—just be sure to get approval from your doctor or physical therapist first.
  • Yoga—it may not feel like your normal workout routine but investing in yoga can provide several important health benefits. The various poses and stretches may work out muscle groups that your regular workout may miss. Yoga also emphasizes spiritual improvement so that may mitigate stress and depression that you are struggling with. Finally, if you discover that your injury is a long-term issue, you may find that yoga is an excellent therapy for chronic pain.
  • Walking—it may not help you cut seconds off your marathon time, but walking provides many benefits. Firstly, it gets you out of bed and provides a mild endorphin boost. It also burns enough calories to keep from packing on extra pounds.
  • Ergo meter—if your lower body is injured, but you still want a good cardiovascular workout, then the ergo meter is a good option. This machine provides a resistance cycling motion for your arms while keeping your lower body immobilized.

Focus on Overall Health

It can be difficult to go from a hard-paced workout regime to lying in bed, but overtaxing your body isn’t going to help you get back to full fitness. In addition to the light workouts, you can improve your general health while you are recovering. For example, you may want to re-examine your diet and see where you might improve it. Obviously, you want to lower your calorie intake while you are injured, but you may want to re-tune it for your current age and lifestyle.

Furthermore, you want to maintain good spirits while you are recovering. You may want to invest some time in yoga, tai chi, or mindful meditation as a way to maintain positive thinking and spiritual health.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.