If you’ve ever broken a bone, you probably thought it was best to rest and not put any weight on it. But somewhat counter-intuitively, exercise may actually play an important role in making sure fractures heal properly. In fact, research shows that being physically active can promote bone healing – and even help you avoid future fractures.
Almost 178 million new bone fractures happen worldwide each year. Fractures can happen for any number of reasons, including falls or sports injuries. While most people heal fine from their injuries, people who are older, diabetic or those who have osteoporosis face a significantly higher risk of dying or becoming disabled from a bone fracture.
Another major problem is that around 5-10% of fractures don’t heal properly. Common causes are fractures that are difficult to hold together, or low blood flow to the area. Some important risk factors include the severity of the fracture, smoking, old age, obesity and diabetes. The bones in the hand, the tibia and fibula (both in the leg) and the femur (thigh bone) are also more prone to improper healing.
Here is where a bit of exercise can help. A study looking at 166 surgically treated tibia fractures discovered that early weight-bearing exercise was linked with faster healing – even in participants who had fractures that weren’t healing properly.