Hi Alice,

About five days ago while I was doing step aerobics I stepped down incorrectly and injured my foot. It turns out, after seeing the doctor, that I cracked a bone on the outer side of my foot and will have to wear a boot cast for about four weeks. My question is, since I can no longer do aerobics, what other kinds of exercises can I do to help me lose weight? I already do weights, abs, and any other type of leg exercise that don't involve me standing, but I don't feel that this is enough and since I am prone to gaining weight easily, I really want to do as much as I can but in a way that I don't aggravate my injury or make it worse.

Please let me know,

Dear April,

A fractured foot can be a pain — figuratively and literally — especially when you're trying to stay physically active. The good news is that there are plenty of low- and medium-impact ways to step up your exercise routine instead of feeling down. But before you pack your gym bags, it’s generally recommended that you run any new exercise plans by your heath care provider to be sure that you won’t be doing more harm than good to that foot of yours. As you might realize, one of the keys to healing a broken bone is, well, just giving it time to actually heal. Often, pain will go away before your fracture is completely healed, so don’t be fooled: starting up high-impact exercise before you’re cleared by a health care provider can reinjure the bone, which could sideline you even longer. Once your foot is healed, you can start to slowly ease back into your regular exercise routine.

You mention that you’re already doing some strengthening exercises while you wait which is great! To help you keep up the good work, some ideas of non-weight bearing cardio, strengthening, and stretching options to consider include:

  • Allow a pull-buoy to do some of the work. A pull-buoy is a piece of foam that goes between your legs while you're working out in a pool, allowing you to float while your upper body does all of the hard work. This is a great tool if you’d like to try something like water aerobics to get your heart rate up. You can also consider a gentle lap swim with your legs up on a floating kickboard and using your arms to swim.
  • Get up in arms. Imagine riding a bicycle, but with only your arms. A fitness machine — known as an upper body ergometer (UBE) — does just that, and it’s another good tool for working up a sweat without harming your foot. Also called “arm bikes,” these machines can be found in some gyms, at some physical therapy practices, or are available for purchase.
  • Think “om”ward and upward. Although it might not be a traditional cardio workout, studies have shown that practicing yoga can have just as many cardiovascular benefits as jogging. Pilates is a similarly low-impact exercise that can be done on the floor and help you stay toned and flexible even with a bum foot.
  • Weight it out. There are lots of options out there to spice up your strengthening routine if you’re getting tired of the same old, same old. You can look into using a medicine ball as a way to combine strength training with traditional ab workouts. There are also a whole slew of seated resistance machines available at most gyms or physical therapy practices. Also, getting your hands on a simple exercise resistance band can open up a world of exercises that can be done seated or laying down.
  • Strike a balance. A new routine that’s good for the mind and the body, like tai chi, can give you a chance to improve your balance, coordination, and mobility while being very easy on your foot. As a bonus, it might help you relax despite all the anxieties that can come with a broken bone.

The waiting game of injury rehab requires a lot of patience, but with a little creativity and openness, you might be able to find an exercise regimen that works for you. These weeks could also be a good opportunity to learn about some of the ways to prevent fractures in the future. You may want to think about getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D to improve bone strength, wearing supportive shoes even once your foot is healed, and paying attention to any pain or swelling as soon as it happens as these are all ways to avoid re-injuring the bone.

Once you’ve bounced back from your injury, rotating through a variety of types of exercise — including the options above — could help you avoid overuse injuries, and can also keep you on your toes with a diverse and exciting workout regimen. When that day comes, you could also consider adding some medium-impact but high-intensity cardio options in addition to your step aerobics, like an elliptical machine or cycling. Again, it is recommended you check in with your health care provider before adding to your exercise regime.

Before you know it, you’ll be giving that boot cast the boot!


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