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Physical Therapy | Personal Training

Staying Active During Injury Recovery: A Guide to Safe Fitness

April 12th, 2024 | 6 min. read

Staying Active During Injury Recovery: A Guide to Safe Fitness
Chris Brandt

Chris Brandt

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Director of Marketing and Sales // Certified Dry Needling Specialist // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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Recovering from a musculoskeletal injury can be challenging for anyone who loves to stay active. It's a period marked by frustration, as the limitations imposed by injury directly conflict with your fitness goals. However, it's crucial to understand that staying active during recovery, when done correctly, not only aids in healing but also maintains your fitness levels. We love helping our patients at EW Motion Therapy stay active during recovery, and our team can tailor treatment plans specifically to your injury and needs. Even if you decide that our physical therapy isn’t right for you, you can still read on as we explore how to adapt your fitness routine safely, the risks of not adjusting your workouts, and the pivotal role physical therapy plays in your recovery journey. 


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Adapting your fitness routine safely

The first step to adapting your fitness routine is understanding your body’s new limits. It's essential to listen to your body and recognize the difference between good pain, such as muscle soreness, and bad pain, which could signify harm or further injury. Always start with low-impact activities focusing on strength, flexibility, and balance without straining the injury or affected tissues. This adaptation is not one-size-fits-all - rather, you should enlist the help of trusted healthcare professionals who can help you implement specific changes based on your injury, your current stage in the healing process, and any other preexisting conditions you may have.


Incorporating low-impact exercises

Low-impact exercises like swimming, stationary cycling, and using an elliptical machine can be incredibly beneficial. These activities maintain cardiovascular health without placing undue stress on your injury. Finding what works for you and gradually increasing intensity under the guidance of a professional can help ensure you do everything correctly. 


There are also many low-impact exercises that don’t require any equipment. Here are a few examples. 



Walking is a fundamental low-impact exercise that can significantly aid in recovery. It improves cardiovascular health, boosts mood, and enhances endurance, all without putting undue stress on your body. Start with short walks, paying attention to your body's response, and gradually increase the distance and pace as your recovery progresses.



Yoga offers many benefits for those recovering from injuries, including improved flexibility, enhanced strength, and reduced stress levels. Focus on gentle yoga poses and sequences designed for beginners or those with physical limitations. Poses like the Cat-Cow, Child’s Pose, and Mountain Pose are excellent starting points, promoting movement without strain.


Bodyweight exercises

Specific bodyweight exercises can be modified to fit a low-impact workout routine. For instance, modified squats (not going as deep), wall push-ups, and leg lifts provide strength training benefits while minimizing stress on the body. Always ensure proper form and listen to your body to avoid overexertion.



Incorporating stretching into your daily routine can significantly improve flexibility and reduce the risk of further injury. Focus on gentle stretches that target major muscle groups. Avoid deep stretches or pushing to the point of pain; the goal is to elongate the muscles and increase mobility gently.


Creating a balanced routine

It’s essential to maintain a balanced approach when integrating these no-equipment, low-impact exercises into your recovery routine. Alternating between different types of exercises can help engage various muscle groups while keeping the routine engaging and effective. Additionally, incorporating rest days is crucial to allow your body ample time to heal and recover.


Remember, the objective is not to push your limits but to maintain activity that supports your body's healing process. Consulting with a physical therapist can provide personalized guidance, ensuring that the exercises you choose are safe and beneficial for your injury and recovery stage.


Staying active while recovering from an injury requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to listening to your body. By incorporating no-equipment, low-impact exercises into your routine, you can maintain your physical health and well-being without compromising your recovery. Embrace these gentle forms of movement as part of your journey towards healing, and remember that every step forward, no matter how small, is progress toward your ultimate goal of returning to pain-free activity.


What happens if I don’t adjust my workouts?

One of the most significant risks of not adapting your fitness routine after an injury is the potential to compound the injury. Continuing to stress an injured part of your body can lead to more severe issues, prolonged recovery, or even permanent damage. This is a stark reminder of the importance of adjusting your approach to fitness during recovery.


Ignoring the need to adapt your workouts can also have mental health implications. The frustration of not seeing progress or, worse, regressing due to re-injury can lead to feelings of despair and demotivation. Adjusting your routine helps provide a sense of progress and control, which is vital for mental well-being during recovery.


How physical therapy can help

Physical therapists specialize in helping individuals recover from injuries through personalized care plans. They can design a recovery-specific routine that addresses the injury and considers your overall fitness goals. This tailored approach ensures you stay active and engaged in your recovery without risking further injury.


A crucial aspect of physical therapy is education on injury prevention and management. Physical therapists provide valuable insights into body mechanics, helping patients understand how to perform exercises correctly. This knowledge is powerful not only for recovery but also for preventing future injuries, allowing patients to stay active and healthy in the long term.


Tips for a successful recovery journey


  • Consult with professionals: Before changing your fitness routine, consult with healthcare professionals like a physical therapist or a personal trainer. Their expertise is invaluable in guiding you through a safe recovery.
  • Set realistic goals: Adjust your fitness goals to reflect your current situation. Celebrate small milestones to stay motivated.
  • Listen to your body: Pay close attention to how your body responds during and after exercise. If something feels off, take a step back and consult with your physical therapist.
  • Stay positive: Recovery is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. Maintain a positive outlook and remind yourself that progress, no matter how small, is still progress.


Staying active while recovering from a musculoskeletal injury is possible with the right approach and mindset. Adapting your fitness routine to accommodate your body's healing process, understanding the risks of not doing so, and leveraging the expertise of physical therapists are all crucial steps on the path to recovery. Remember, every injury and recovery process is unique—what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to stay informed and listen to your body so you can make well-informed choices about your health and fitness journey. With patience, perseverance, and the proper guidance, you can navigate your recovery successfully and return to your favorite activities pain-free. We aim to help all our patients do this at EW Motion Therapy, whether you’re a football player with a torn ACL or a runner recovering from a sprained ankle. If you are curious about how much your physical therapy may cost, click the button below to download our free physical therapy pricing guide.


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