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How to Exercise With a Stress Fracture

By Laura Scholz

A stress fracture is a very small sliver or crack in a bone, generally caused by repetitive motion or repeated stress on the bone. A stress fracture is common in athletes and most frequently occur in the metatarsals (foot bones) and tibia (leg bone). While a stress fracture usually takes six to eight weeks to heal, it doesn't have to keep you sidelined. With proper care and attention, you can still exercise with a stress fracture.

Consult your physician and find out what exercise is acceptable for you, given the type and severity of your injury. Most likely, your doctor will recommend non-weight bearing exercises while your stress fracture heals.

Go for a swim. Swimming is a non-impact exercise, which keeps your bones from taking the pounding they would on land, which is usually what causes a stress fracture. In addition, swimming in an excellent cardiovascular and all-over body workout. Try laps using the freestyle stroke, pool running with a weighted belt. paddling with the assistance of a water noodle or a water aerobics class in lieu of your regular workout. If your gym or community doesn't have a pool, check with your city's parks and recreation department to find out what pools are accessible to the public.

Hop on a bike. Like swimming, a stationary bike provides a great non-impact workout, perfect for those with foot or leg injury such as a stress fracture. Try using different settings like hills or intervals to vary your workout and mimic your on the ground routine. Use a bike with foot straps to minimize the impact on your feet and legs, especially where you have the stress fracture.

Try the elliptical trainer. Like swimming and the stationary bike, the elliptical is non-impact and provides a great cardiovascular workout. Again, use hills, intervals and the random settings to vary your workouts and increase the resistance for a more strenuous workout.

Hit the mat. Pilates, which was designed to help soldiers recover from World War I injuries, is by design a non-impact workout. Try a mat class at your local gym, studio or community center and get a full-body workout without your feet every touching the ground--perfect for those recovering from a stress fracture. Pilates is also great for developing core strength and flexibility.

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