Disability and Injury: How to Stay Physically Active

There is a Turkish saying which translates to: ‘Where you experience physical pain, your lifeline can be found.’ Its meaning is clear: that if any part of your body hurts, all your focus, your thoughts, and your plans will be centred around that. Injury may limit what you can and are willing to do; even to the point where you will need to change your routine or give up your treasured habits.

Most of us who have experienced limited physical capability at some point in our lives know how true this Turkish proverb rings—especially if we are active people prone to injuries, or if we are born with a physical condition or disability. If such injuries leave a permanent mark, we learn to live with them so that they don’t reduce the quality of our lives.

This need for adaptability is most prominent in fitness when you are trying to make (or keep) exercise as a part of your daily routine. That's why in today’s article, we’ll be looking at some of the most common exercises and what your options are if you are suffering from an injury or disability that prevents you from completing them. We’ll give you alternative moves that you can start doing or do more of to make up for missing out while recovering.

Squats

Squats and Squat Jacks are great moves that help strengthen your leg muscles, target your core, and burn fat. They work out the muscles on your back, your gluteus maximus (a.k.a. your butt), your quadriceps, hamstrings, and abs. In short, they are a full-body workout.

If you have a knee, hip, or ankle injury, however, squats can be difficult to do.

 Doğuş Balbay, professional basketball player &  Fitwell  personal trainer showing you how to do a proper squat.

Doğuş Balbay, professional basketball player & Fitwell personal trainer showing you how to do a proper squat.

When you have to take a short break from squats, here are 3 substitute exercises you can try:

1. The Pelvis Bridge

Pelvis bridge is a great core exercise, but at the same time, it also targets your gluteus maximus and quadriceps. If you are unable to do squats, this exercise will keep you in shape for when you return to them. And, if you do them as a part of your regular fitness regime, pelvis bridges will help improve the quality and quantity of your squats as well.

 Croatian professional basketball player and  Fitwell  personal trainer Antonija Mišura working out her core.

Croatian professional basketball player and Fitwell personal trainer Antonija Mišura working out her core.

Pelvis bridges will make sure you don't lose form and strength while you recover from your injury. If you are feeling up to the challenge, you can spice things up by alternating between Pelvis Bridges and Marching Pelvis Bridges:

Marching Pelvis Bridge Alternate.gif

2. Side Static Lunge

Side static lunges can be challenging if you have a knee or hip injury, but you can still manage them by slowing down your speed. They can keep you in the game while you recover enough to go back to doing your squats.

 Exercises like the Side Static Lunge will also help improve your balance.

Exercises like the Side Static Lunge will also help improve your balance.

3. Murpees

Murpees are modified burpees with the edge taken off. Slower than a burpee and less strenuous on the knees and back, murpees can keep you in shape while you recover. They also serve as a great short-term alternative to squats.

For those of you who are not familiar with the exercise, this is what a regular burpee looks like:

 Sometimes all you need to complete an exercise while injured is to slow it down.

Sometimes all you need to complete an exercise while injured is to slow it down.

And here’s how you modify a burpee to get a murpee:

  • Slowly lower yourself into a squat position and place your hands on the floor in front of you

  • Stretch your left leg behind you, followed by your right leg (until you are in a push-up position)

  • Do a push-up

  • Slowly bring the right leg up and touch your knee to your elbow

  • Do the same with the right leg

  • Lift up slightly so that you are back into a squat

  • Slowly stand up or jump (if you can) and repeat

Push-ups

Push-ups are a great full-body workout and an important part of an exercise regime. They also come in many shapes and forms that, with each alternation, can target a different muscle group, adding variety to your workouts. However, certain injuries can prevent you from doing push-ups. The good news is, you have quite a few alternatives you can try in place of push-ups, especially if you have a resistance band or some weights.

 Push-ups, and its variations, provide a great full-body workout. Find more exercises like this when you sign up with  Fitwell .

Push-ups, and its variations, provide a great full-body workout. Find more exercises like this when you sign up with Fitwell.

Here are a few exercises if you need to take a break from push-ups:

1. Triceps Dips

Tricep dips won’t put as much pressure on your spine and shoulders, giving your body time to heal:

 Tricep dips will give you a great workout while protecting your back, spine, and shoulders.

Tricep dips will give you a great workout while protecting your back, spine, and shoulders.

Unfortunately, they also don’t target as many muscle groups in your body as push-ups, but you can always couple this with chest flyes or planks if you are feeling strong enough.  

2. Alternate Chest Presses

If you do not have weights at home, you can substitute 1 or 2-litre bottles filled with water for this exercise. It’ll work your triceps, deltoids, and chest, and prevent you from losing too much muscle endurance and muscle mass while you recover.

 Professional football player and Fitwell personal trainer Murat Bür executing an Alternate Chest Press.

Professional football player and Fitwell personal trainer Murat Bür executing an Alternate Chest Press.

3. Bench Push-Ups

If you can’t do the real thing, the best solution is to try and modify the workout so that you can manage it, right? That’s what Bench Push-Ups do. They elevate your body so that your back and muscles don’t work as much against gravity to lift you off the ground. This way, you won’t put as much pressure on your shoulders, elbows, and back, giving them time to heal.

 Burcu Kuş, personal trainer to Turkish stars and the  Fitwell  community, shows how to modify a push-up.

Burcu Kuş, personal trainer to Turkish stars and the Fitwell community, shows how to modify a push-up.

4. Chest Fly

Chest flyes will give your back muscles a break. This exercise is a great alternative when you are suffering from back or shoulder injury. For added endurance training, bend your knees and lift your legs so that your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to your body.

 Chest flyes support your back and shoulders and decrease the risk of injury.

Chest flyes support your back and shoulders and decrease the risk of injury.

Crunches

Crunches can be difficult to complete if you are suffering from lower back pain. They are, however, both a great core exercise and should not be avoided for long. If done properly, crunches can actually help strengthen your back and lower risk of back injury.

 Crunches are a great core workout and can be modified to target a variety of muscle groups.

Crunches are a great core workout and can be modified to target a variety of muscle groups.

1. Front Planks

Planks are quite possibly the workout of the year, so you should be doing them in any case. But if you are unable to do crunches, they are also a great replacement. They keep your body in a stable position, and as a result, they are not too hard on your joints or back.

 Planks are a very popular exercise and a way to work out your body.

Planks are a very popular exercise and a way to work out your body.

If a full-body plank is proving too difficult, try modifying it and doing it like this:

 Planks are easily modifiable if you are having difficulty. Find more exercises like this when you sign up with  Fitwell .

Planks are easily modifiable if you are having difficulty. Find more exercises like this when you sign up with Fitwell.

2. Dead Bug

The name of this exercise makes us chuckle, but as silly as it sounds (and looks), the posture supports your back and shoulders while you give your core a great workout.

 Don't sneer at the name! :) The Dead Bug exercise is quite beneficial.

Don't sneer at the name! :) The Dead Bug exercise is quite beneficial.

The Dead Bug isolates movement at your hips and shoulders, and gives your back and spine a rest. It’s a great way to target several muscle groups (like your abs, core, shoulder, and hips) if you cannot do a crunch.

3. Leg Raises

This is a great exercise for your lower abs. It also takes away from the strain you may put on your lower back when trying to do a crunch. Couple this with some upper-ab workout (like planks) and you will be set for your recovery period.

 This exercise gives your lower abs a great workout!

This exercise gives your lower abs a great workout!

Injury or disability teaches us how important physical health is to the quality of our lives. This is why we have all set out to become healthier and fitter. Regular exercise will prevent injury and help you get through physically challenging times. If you are having difficulty, the above list will provide some alternatives for those moves that you are not able to complete.

In any case of injury or disability, however, always listen to your body and your doctor. Your body will tell you if you are pushing yourself too hard or if you are about to injure yourself, and your doctor will teach you how to prevent further injury and improve your current physical condition.

Other than that, stay healthy, work out safe, and have fun!

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