Cardio Guide for People with Leg Injuries
What Kind of Leg Injury Are You Dealing With?
First, determine the problem area and what kind of movements typically exacerbate the healing process in that area.
- Is it a knee injury that limits extension and flexion at the joint?
- Is it an ankle injury where any kind of pressure will make things worse?
- Is it a broken leg with a cast that limits what kinds of movements can be performed?
Which cardiovascular exercises can and cannot be done while the healing process is occurring? Make sure to take into account any and all problem areas you may have, because it is possible to suffer from more than one of these issues. Use this information to figure out what will work best for you in conjunction with advice from your doctor, physician and/or physical therapist.
When dealing with knee injuries, it’s important to avoid any sort of cardiovascular activity that will put pressure on the knee joint.
Treadmills, for example, can be detrimental for someone with knee problems because of the pressure put on the joint, especially when moving at high speeds and/or with an elevated incline.
Ellipticals, on the other hand, are considered safer for people with bad knees due to the circular movement the machine elicits. The movement actually puts more emphasis on the hips while the knees tend to stay stationary.
Stationary Bikes can also be beneficial for people with bad knees if done properly (with the seat high enough for a 90 degree bend and with the knees having only a slight bend when fully extended.)
Low-impact activities such as walking and water aerobics are also excellent choices. Make sure that you have shoes with proper cushioning and arch support and do not walk at too high of an intensity. Take it slow at the beginning and gradually work your way up to a higher intensity as you get conditioned (and as long as your knees can handle it.) If you have access to a pool, swimming is an excellent cardio workout that doesn’t place any stress on the joints. If you belong to a gym, joining a water aerobics class can give some added intensity with no added stress to the knee joints.
When dealing with ankle injuries, it is important to avoid pressure on the joint. This basically eliminates using a Treadmill and any type of walking or running, as standing on the ankle puts a great deal of pressure on it. Just the movement of walking alone is detrimental for ankle injuries which is why you see many people with ankle injuries on crutches.
Bikes of any kind are also out because the ankle is called upon greatly in order to move the pedal through the required range of motion.
Stair Steppers, Step Aerobics, and Climbing Steps are to be avoided as well because standing is required and there is a great deal of risk in rolling the ankle for further injury.
Kickboxing Classes (or any standing aerobics class for that matter) are out as well for the same reasons listed above.
So what kinds of movements can be performed?
Swimming and Water Aerobics are good choices because they eliminate having to put weight on your feet. These are excellent forms of exercise which limit the stress on the ankle as well as the knees, hips and spine.
Using a Cycle Ergometer would be wise because the primary emphasis of the movement is placed on the arms.
Rowing Machines are also a great choice due to the cardiovascular demand as well as the muscle building potential. Just be cautious if you suffer from back problems as rowing can be quite stressful on the lower back if done improperly.
Cardio exercises are a little more difficult to manage when dealing with a broken leg, at least in the traditional sense. Treadmills, Ellipticals, and Stationary Bikes are basically out of the question due to the cast on the leg limiting any form of movement possible. Swimming and Water Aerobics are also out due to the cast not being able to get wet.
So when thinking of cardiovascular exercises for this kind of injury, the upper body becomes the main area of focus.
Cycle Ergometers and Rowing Machines definitely come in handy because you will primarily use your arms to perform the movements. The legs are not called upon at all in order to get a benefit from either of these machines.
Aerobics Classes that require many different arm movements such as punching or doing fast repetitive movements with smaller weights are also an excellent choice. There aren’t as many choices for people with broken legs, but remember that cardio exercises involving the upper body can be just as effective as those that require use of the lower body.
Bigkneepain.com (2011, January 5). Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises. Retrieved from https://www.bigkneepain.com/knee-safe_aerobics.html
3FatChicks.com (2011, January 5). Ankle Pain? 4 Cardio Exercises to Avoid. Retrieved from https://www.3fatchicks.com/ankle-pain-4-cardio-exercises-to-avoid/