Any exercise ideas for someone who can't use their legs?
June 10, 2007 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Any exercise ideas for someone who can't use their legs? (And also can't go in the water.)

Due to a traffic accident (happened years ago), I have a supremely busted left leg and ankle. In a few weeks I'll be having surgery that I hope will fix it, but I'll be in a cast and on crutches for up to six months. I'm young and active, despite the injury. Usually I bike, swim, etc - obviously this will be out the window. The bones in my leg and ankle are being fused together, so I can't put any weight on it, and I can't go in the water with the cast. So, anyone got any ideas for new sports/activities to try?
posted by mogotron to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Resistance bands? They don't weigh anything and you can be flexible in how you use them. You can probably use them in all kinds of different ways just lying down. Good exercise equipment to take with you when traveling if nothing else.
posted by GleepGlop at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2007

Can you get a hand cycle? They are expensive (read $3000 new / $1000+ used), by IMO worth the investment especially if you're going to be out 6 months with limited cardio. Plus after 6 months, you're going to be tired of doing any kinds of exercise that can be done indoors.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:27 AM on June 10, 2007

Wii console? No, really, Wii Sports will wear you out, I swear!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:28 AM on June 10, 2007

Weightlifting. You'll use crutches, yes? You'll thank yourself for the improved upper body strength.

I can't go in the water with the cast.

Ask to get a removable cast as early as possible.
posted by frogan at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2007

There's a PBS show called Sit and Be Fit. You could try to catch it on TV or pick up the DVDs.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:39 AM on June 10, 2007

My gym has something called chair aerobics. I actually tried it once, to keep my mom company. It kicked my butt. Weights were involved, so I suppose you could research that, get a chair and do it at home if you don't have a gym that offers it.

The gym also has a machine that would be the hands and arm equivalenc of a bicycle. You sit and grab the handles and turn the cranks in a similar fashion.

Finally, why not ask the docs and nurses if they recommend anything? They may know of resources you wouldn't have thought about.
posted by konolia at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2007

If you have a friend to go with, canoeing might be nice. You'd need some help to get in and out, but if you have a nice, firm place to launch from it could be really good for you.

I used to use an exercise ball to do crunches in various positions. It might be cumbersome with a cast, but it's worth a shot.

Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2007

Seconding Wii, and the hand-cycle. A coworker has zero use of his legs due to an auto accident, but he has developed incredible upper body strength and coordination by, obviously, self-propelling his wheelchair, but also using a hand cycle. Plus, you would get the joys and benefits of cycling: seeing new things, feeling the wind on your face, meeting new people; in short... freedom!
posted by The Deej at 12:13 PM on June 10, 2007

Horseback riding.
posted by bunnycup at 12:22 PM on June 10, 2007

Seconding the hand cycle, and dumbells.

There are so many dumbell exercises you could do in a gym, many of them from a wheelchair. Or even better, hobbling in and your crutches, seating yourself on a bench, and then doing your thing. Dumbells are awesome-anything you can ddo with a barbell, there is a dumbell version. There's no reason you couldn't come out of this really fit. Obviously, your legs will be comparatively deficient, but nothing can be done about that until you're out of the cast. Dumbells and handcycle, imo, is the way to go.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2007

I bet a good pilates teacher could help.
posted by shothotbot at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2007

So, anyone got any ideas for new sports/activities to try?

I would suggest doing whatever the best physical therapist you can find recommends and nothing else. Doing upper-body and core exercises while your lower body is immobile may lead to major long-term problems once you get the use of your leg back.
posted by backupjesus at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2007

Talk to your doctor about a water friendly cast. Any time spent in the pool will be time when underneath your cast does not itch or sweat.

There is also chair yoga, although it tends to be really gentle (designed for older folks)...might be good for a change of pace, anyway.
posted by anaelith at 1:31 PM on June 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you very much for the ideas, everyone :-)

I will definitely ask about the waterproof and removable casts; currently I wear a brace which is fine in the water, so perhaps I can even use that after a couple of months. The handcycle sounds great - I'm on a grad student's budget, but I'll try to find a good deal used. I do have dumbells that I already lift, it's the cardio that's the trickier part.

I definitely like the Wii idea, I already need no excuse to play on that thing :-D (electronic crack)

I really appreciate all the responses; this is a pretty big undertaking for me both mentally and physically, and staying fit will really help!
posted by mogotron at 2:31 PM on June 10, 2007

I would suggest doing whatever the best physical therapist you can find recommends and nothing else.

Seconding this. You will inevitably be seeing a PT, and they will tell you what is safe to do, and what you can do in the future. Much better than a doctor (who is usually clueless) or a trainer.
posted by smackfu at 2:43 PM on June 10, 2007

The Stew Smith shoulder workout. The instructions say to do it from a standing position, but it looks like you could do all of the exercises from a chair.
posted by concrete at 2:44 PM on June 10, 2007

What konolia was talking about, chair aerobics, is basically the same thing as Sit or Be Fit, except the show is probably more gentle since it's aimed kind of at seniors (although there's nothing wrong with younger people doing it too).
posted by IndigoRain at 7:08 PM on June 10, 2007

sit AND be fit...
posted by IndigoRain at 7:09 PM on June 10, 2007

The cast will itch; do not scratch it. You can get infection in there and can't see it. Use canned air blown down into it when it itches.
< /free advice you didn't ask for
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:37 AM on June 11, 2007

Response by poster: unrepetanthippie - I am very bad about that. I've worn casts for up to 4 months at a time before, and around month 2 I start sticking knitting needles down there (VERY bad). Thank you for the compressed air idea!

I'm not getting physiotherapy for the first few months, until the bones fuse (and after that the joint won't be able to move anyway). But I can always ask one of the physios who works with the surgeon.

Thanks again to everyone for their ideas! :-)
posted by mogotron at 6:54 AM on June 11, 2007

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