Exercises for People on Crutches

Man with knee brace and crutches

It can be difficult to keep in shape while on crutches, but it's not impossible. Before you start an exercise program, meet with your health care provider to discuss restrictions on movement and weight-bearing. Your health care provider may recommend regular physiotherapy as physiotherapists have specialized equipment to help patients build strength and endurance after an accident or surgery and are trained to help with rehabilitation.

Arms and Shoulders

Arm and shoulder exercises can be used for either cardio or strength training. Choose a solid chair or bench that allows you to position your injured leg comfortably while sitting upright. Perform a variety of movements such as shoulder shrugs, arm circles, shoulder circles, front and side arm raises and punches in all directions. Do rapid movements with light weights or resistance bands for at least 15 minutes for a cardio workout. To build strength, use heavier resistance bands or dumbbells with slow, controlled movements.

Core Strength

Develop core strength as you sit on a chair or bench. Work your oblique muscles by doing side bends. Next, twist your upper body from side to side while keeping your hips and legs still to work your back and abdominal muscles. Perform seated stomach curls by holding your legs and hips in place, leaning backward and then sitting up. Do knee raise crunches by lifting up one knee at a time and leaning forward and then returning to an upright, seated position. Add a twist as you raise your knee to work the obliques.

Upper Body Cardio

An arm cycle or upper body ergometer works like a stationary bicycle and provides similar cardiovascular benefits, but it is designed to be pedaled with your arms rather than legs. Another option is using a rowing machine or unweighted upright row selectorized machine using only your upper body.

Aquatic Exercise

Because water can support your weight, aquatic exercises are often recommended as part of rehabilitation programs. Depending on the specific nature of your injury, you may do exercises that involve only the upper body or perform lower body exercises such as deep water running. Both cardiovascular and resistance band exercises can be done in the water.