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An ankle injury that prevents you from walking can be annoying, especially if you miss out on your working out your legs.
Given that a broken ankle lasts 6 to 8 weeks, you might be worried you'll lose your leg muscle gains or add on weight. Stationary cycling is often recommended for simple ankle sprains, making you wonder if you can do it with a broken foot.
You can use an exercise bike with a broken ankle after your foot is placed in a cast and your ankle has had at least one week to rest. Even after that, you need to use the bike on its easiest settings to keep pressure away from your ankle.
In this article, you will learn the best practices of exercising on a stationary bike with a broken ankle as well as a sprained ankle. You'll also discover the key differences in the prerequisites of exercise bike usage when you twist your ankle compared to when you break it.
This post draws from over eight medical sources as well as a few athletic support portals to bring you the definitive guide to using an exercise bike with an ankle injury.
Should You Use an Exercise Bike With a Broken Ankle?
You should use an exercise bike with a broken ankle if your ankle is in a cast. With a sprained ankle, the rules are looser; if using an exercise bike doesn't hurt, you can continue using it as a primary exercising medium.
For sprained ankles, stationary bike use is recommended by medical professionals and health resources alike as it puts far less strain on one's ankle.
However, this shouldn't be taken as blanket permission to use an exercise bike to any extent, especially if you have a broken ankle. This is why it is crucial to understand the difference between a broken ankle and a sprained ankle.
Broken Ankle vs. Sprained Ankle
If your ankle bones are damaged, fractured, or broken, you have a broken ankle. If your ankle ligaments or nearby foot muscles are injured or affected, then you have a sprained ankle. You can use the stationary bike in both instances, but the requirements to do so are different.
The degree of stress your exercise bike should require must be proportionate to the reduced cycling ability with your ankle condition. Most of the effort will be exerted by your leg muscles, but if there is plenty of tension in the gears and you really have to grind the pedals, your ankles will be affected.
For broken ankles in a cast, the easiest setting must be used and maintained with some room for raising the difficulty as the bones repair. For ankles in a splint, the matter is more delicate, and the easiest setting must be maintained perpetually until the ankle splint is off. If you have a sprained ankle, you can exercise more. As a rule of thumb for sprained ankles, you must start with the easiest setting and cycle for 15 minutes.
Then you can raise the tension in the bike gears just a little and see if your ankles hurt. If your ankles don't hurt, you can continue cycling for another 15 minutes, after which you can call it a day. But before you exercise a sprained ankle, you need to get proper foot support.
Best Foot Support for an Injured Ankle
If your foot is not placed in a cast even after visiting a physician, chances are, you have no bone damage. For joint, ligament, and muscle damage, you still need to have appropriate support, especially if you plan to exercise your legs.
Bodyprox Ankle Support Brace is the best foot support for a joint injury. If your foot hurts after an ankle twist, this neoprene sleeve will wrap and hold it in a comfortable position from both sides of your foot.
The product is highly breathable, so you don't have to worry about trapped sweat, especially when using an exercise bike. More importantly, it is one of the most reviewed products on Amazon across any category.
With over 41,000 reviews and ratings, it has a 4.3 out of 5 stars, with its lightweight and ease of use being its best-rated features. You can use it all day or when you use the exercise bike only.
Can You Use an Exercise Bike on High Difficulty With a Broken Ankle?
You can use an exercise bike on high difficulty if your foot case is tight and doesn't allow joint motion. Alternatively, you can make bike use more challenging by extending the time you spend exercising.
The advantage of increasing gear tension or exercise bike slope is that you work out your muscles much quicker. But there's a problem: your ankle recovery might take longer if you keep stressing the bones.
Extended use of the bike with low gear tension and no slope does take time and requires getting used to. But it is much safer for your ankle. Overall, extended use with less stress is the better choice. But if you truly don't feel any tension or find the easiest setting not challenging at all, you can increase the difficulty a little.
How Long After a Broken Ankle Can You Use an Exercise Bike?
The consensus of medical sources is that ankles must be allowed to rest as much as possible. At the same time, biophysics of bike riding suggests that as long as the pedals are correctly positioned, ankles receive minimal stress when pedaling.
A cast should further protect your ankle. But when you're prescribed bed rest, your entire body should rest so a specific part can heal quicker. It is not as much about the action itself harming your ankle but working out in general, reducing the rate of healing of a severely damaged ankle.
Reports of people who have injured their ankles show a pattern of 1 to 2 weeks of strict bed rest being prescribed alongside 6 to 8 weeks of an ankle brace or cast mandate.
This would suggest that at a bare minimum, you should rest your entire leg for at least one week. Then, if you have a cast and can afford to stand up without feeling significant pain, you can use a stationary bike.
Biggest Exercising Mistakes for a Broken Ankle
- Not getting enough rest - If you have a broken ankle and you start working out your upper body, you're slowing down your body's healing process. Conserve energy for at least one week.
- Not getting enough exercise - An ankle injury doesn't mean you should let your calves and quads rest perpetually. Using an exercise bike in week 3 or 4 can accelerate functional healing.
- Not requesting enough support - Wearing a cast is crucial for an ankle fracture. Opting for weaker support like a fabric brace can keep you from exercising because of its lack of rigidity.
- Not consulting one's physician - Asking your physician before taking any step ensures that you don't worsen the damage your ankles are experiencing.