Working Out With a Lower Body Injury

Woman in bed with broken leg

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Lower body injuries are among the most frustrating, especially for exercisers. Almost every cardio activity we do involves the lower body. Taking one limb away may make you feel like your entire exercise program is down the tubes.

That's not necessarily the case. Your doctor is your first and best source of information, but there are often ways you can work around your injury and stay in shape, even while it heals.

Talk to Your Doctor

Before you do anything, discuss your recovery with your doctor. Get advice on what kind of physical activity is safe for you.

  • Are there specific exercises or activities you should avoid?
  • Are there specific exercises you can do to help heal your injury?
  • How long can you expect to be away from your usual exercise routine?
  • If you can't use your lower body at all, can you focus on upper body training without aggravating your injury?
  • When can you start exercising again?
  • How should you return to your routine so you don't hurt yourself again?

Also, ask your healthcare provider if rehab is needed and if you can get a referral for physical therapy. Rehab from an injury is likely to be easier with personalized care from a qualified expert.

The more information you have, the more control you'll have over your injury and what you need to heal it. It also helps to create a plan to get through the process, especially if you're a regular exerciser who's been sidelined by your injury.

Tell your healthcare provider how important exercise is to you and that you want to do everything you can to stay safe while still being active.

Workouts for Injured Exercisers

Not being able to exercise can be frustrating and can leave you feeling depressed and worried about losing strength and gaining weight. Finding a way to do some type of activity can go a long way towards having a better attitude about your situation. Possibilities include:

  • Arm cycling: If you're a member of a gym, you may have access to an upper body ergometer, which is essentially hand-cycling. Since that is not an option for all of us, you can find affordable versions at Amazon.
  • Seated exercise: You may be able to do light training with your lower body from a seated position (with your doctor's okay) and you can even find seated exercise videos as well. They may not offer the intensity of your usual workouts, but they can get you moving.
  • Swimming: Depending on your situation (and doctor's orders), you may be able to swim, which is a great way to work your body without pressure on the joints.
  • Upper body training: Upper body workouts can help keep your muscles strong and give you something to do while your lower body heals. You may need to modify some exercises so they don't involve the lower body.

The point is to do anything, even if it feels like it's not even close to what you normally do. Do what you can to help you get through a long healing process. Staying active will not only keep your mind occupied, it'll keep your body as fit as you can while you heal.

A Word From Verywell

Don't forget to reach out for help if you need it. If you are having a hard time returning to exercise or if you are concerned about making things worse, get help from a physical therapist to help guide you back to optimal health. Ultimately a professional can help you get back to and even better than your baseline so that the injury doesn't happen again.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jones CM, Griffiths PC, Mellalieu SD. Training load and fatigue marker associations with injury and illness: A systematic review of longitudinal studies. Sports Med. 2017;47(5):943-974. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0619-5

  2. Kraemer W, Denegar C, Flanagan S. Recovery from injury in sport: considerations in the transition from medical care to performance care. Sports Health. 2009;1(5):392-5. doi:10.1177/1941738109343156

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."