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Exercising with a Broken Leg

by
author image Meredith Crilly
Meredith C. has worked as a nutrition educator, chef and community health projects since 2011. She received a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from the University of Tennessee and is currently completing an MS/DI program in nutrition.
Exercising with a Broken Leg
With proper precautions, you can exercise with a broken leg. Photo Credit Amawasri/iStock/Getty Images

You may think that having a broken leg puts a stop to your fitness, but you don't have to lose hard-earned muscle and endurance due to an injury. You can still perform a variety of cardio, strength-training and flexibility exercises that will keep your body strong and prevent muscle loss during recovery. Of course, you should always follow a doctor's advice and stay off a broken leg until it has fully healed.

Starting Slowly

When you begin to exercise, always be cautious of your leg, and avoid any exercises that could cause you to fall or put strain on the leg. However, you do want to keep flexibility in your joints by bending and straightening every joint that is not in a cast. Band exercises provide gentle resistance and can be safely used to improve flexibility and circulation. You can use exercise bands in your arms and unbroken leg to stretch out each joint, ensuring that you stop when you feel pain. Performing a variety of stretching exercises every day or every other day keeps your joints flexible.

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercising is limited with a broken leg since you will not be able to perform many cardiovascular exercises. However, using your upper body strategically ensures that you still get in a good workout. Rowing machines provide resistance, and you may be able to use them with one leg or only use your upper body. Punching a heavy bag while sitting counts as a cardio exercise, although be sure to set up the equipment properly. Handwheels also provide an opportunity for you to raise your heart rate and exercise effectively. If you're not familiar with handwheels, these are small pieces of exercise equipment consisting of a wheel with a handle attached. Much like your legs would exercise using a stationary bike, your arms move in a circular motion at varying resistances to strengthen muscles in the upper arms and shoulders and train the extension of shoulder joints. Consult with a doctor or physical therapist for more guided help.

Strength-Training Exercises

Strength training with a broken bone primarily focuses on your upper body and abdomen region, but there are a variety of exercises that can be done at home safely. Bicep and hammer curls work arm muscles and do not require standing. Lat pulldowns, lateral dumbbell raises and overhead presses work multiple muscles and are your best option when time is limited. Avoid any weight machines that require you to stand or use your legs to provide resistance, as this may not be safe.

Other Considerations

Be sure to consult with a doctor and physical therapist before starting a workout regime with a broken leg. Since every break is different, your doctor can provide valuable information that may give you a greater understanding of how much you can exert yourself. These trained professionals can also provide expert information on rehab exercises when your leg cast is removed. Additionally, when you work out, especially with resistance exercises, you may want to work out with a friend. They can help you navigate through gyms and provide support when needed.

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