How to get back into exercise after injury

We’ve teamed up with PhysioFast Online for some expert tips

Being injured and out of action can stop you in your tracks, especially if you’re used to exercising or training a few times a week. We chatted to Katie Knapton – founder of PhysioFast Online – for some expert advice about safely getting back to doing what you love following an injury.

What is PhysioFast Online?

We’re glad you asked. PhysioFast Online provide convenient physiotherapy appointments via video, so you can chat to a professional and receive treatment for your injury without having to leave the house. (Charges apply).

Let’s dive into some tip-top advice. Ready?

Take it slow

“How quickly you can get back into exercise after you’ve been injured depends on the severity of the injury,” says Katie. “The path to recovery is rarely linear, and it can take three to six months to regain your full function.”

If it’s a recent sprain or strain injury, following four simple steps – rest, ice, compress and elevate (RICE) – can help.

• Rest your injury just putting as much pressure/weight as is comfortable

• Ice for up to 20 minutes

• Compress your injury by wrapping a bandage around it for support

• Elevate the affected area and keep it raised as often as you can

Psst! If you’ve got a sprain or strain, try the Boots Hot/Cold Compress! It moulds to fit the shape of your body and helps reduce swelling – handy, eh?

If you’ve already treated your injury at home and it’s not feeling better, or the pain and swelling are getting worse, you should have a chat with your GP. If you feel hot and cold and have a very high temperature with your injury, it could be an infection. If this is the case, you should call NHS 111 – they’ll be able to help.

Getting back out there

Cycling or running, walking or swimming – returning to what you love is exciting, but you may need a plan to help avoid sitting on the sidelines again. Katie recommends checking in with your GP or physio before you start exercising. “Pushing yourself too soon could make your recovery take longer, or make your injury worse, so be sure to get the green light from an expert first,” she advises. Make sure you’ve strengthened your injured area, and don’t start anything too strenuous until the pain or discomfort has disappeared.

Getting back to the level you were at will take some time – but don’t give up. It’s all about a positive mindset. “Most injuries are temporary, so keep reminding yourself that you’ll be able to return to the activity or sport you enjoyed,” Katie adds. “Start at about 50 percent of your normal level and increase 10 to 20 percent each session to help avoid overdoing it.”

Taking time to warm up, cool down and stretch is also super important. Remember, your body has been out of action for a while, and it might be a little weaker.

"A strong body is key to avoiding injury."

- Katie Knapton, PhysioFast Online

Begin with lower impact exercise

Whether it’s a gentle walk around the garden or taking a dip in your local pool, doing low-impact exercise is a fabulous way of keeping active. And you can increase the intensity of the activity as you regain your strength.

Branch out

Switching it up and trying something new can help you to stay strong and fit while the part of your body that’s injured takes a much-needed break. “If you’ve hurt your knee while biking, consider adding an activity like swimming to your routine,” Katie says. “Doing a variety of activities that work different parts of your body is key.”

Listen to your body

Your body knows best. If you’re experiencing discomfort when exercising, it’s good to know when enough is enough. According to our expert: “If you feel a slight pain, pushing past it can help you make gains, but you should never be in agony. As a general rule, any discomfort should settle within two hours and shouldn’t carry onto the next day.” If you’re concerned about any pain or discomfort, speak to your GP or physiotherapist – they can advise you on the steps to take next.

B is for balance

Working on your balance can help you strengthen your body and avoid future injuries. Simple exercises like standing on one leg or walking heel-to-toe are just a few examples you can try at home.

Eat well & keep hydrated

Following a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids – we’re sure you know all about that – can help your body heal quicker from an injury. Eating protein-rich foods like meat, fish, beans, tofu and nuts, may help prevent muscle loss while you’re out of action, too.

Remember, restarting your exercise routine after an injury can take a while, and it’s OK to go at your own pace. Don’t get discouraged – you’ve got this!