If you have an injury to your leg it can be really frustrating not being able to exercise the way you want to. If you have an ankle, knee or hip joint or muscle injury, it can seem like all your regular cardio workouts are off the table. And there’s good reason for this as high impact jumping and dynamic multi-directional sports will aggravate your condition, so you’ll definitely want to avoid these.
But this doesn’t mean that you should just rest and not get a sweat on until your injury repairs. In fact, doing hard cardio-focused exercise that doesn’t aggravate your specific lower limb injury will actually promote healing and give you the added benefit of the mental and emotional well-being that comes with getting your heart rate up and getting a sweat on.
As Physiotherapists we have a lot of experience in knowing exactly what you can and can’t do depending on your specific diagnosis. We can often give patients the go-ahead to get started on certain low impact exercises that we know won’t flare up their condition.
The cardio exercises below are a good place to start on your search for lower impact exercises to get your heart rate up.
Swimming is a low impact exercise that may be possible depending on your injury. If your upper limb function is pain free, you can put a buoy or floatation device around your feet and still swim freestyle pain-free. This allows you to get your heart rate up and exercise hard. Alternatively, depending on your injury, small kicks may not aggravate your lower limb condition either.
Dual Exercise Bike (or cycle ergometer) using arms only
Dual exercise bikes are one of the hardest cardio workouts out there. Take away those powerful quads and use your arms alone and 15 minutes on this and you’ll be sweating bullets, that’s for sure! Most gyms will have a bunch of these bikes so they’re an easy, accessible option. The best thing about it is your legs can just sit up out of the way you’re just pedalling with your arms, or you can place them on the pedals without putting pressure on them and get a nice gentle stretch.
Stationary Bike or Elliptical Machine
Again, depending on the injury often it is possible to get started on one of these machines relatively soon after your injury. The great thing about it is there’s low impact going through your lower limb joints and musculature. Additionally you can tailor the resistance to suit you allowing you to work as hard as your injury will allow.
Too often we see people that are overly cautious about working out after having an injury and don’t realise that there are alternative options for cardio workouts. As physiotherapists we have a great deal of experience with guiding you through the recovery process and explaining what you should and shouldn’t do for your specific injury.