An auto accident is incredibly traumatic. Of course, there is the physical trauma to consider — the biggest issue at hand when recovering from an auto accident is the initial road to recovery. There is also an emotional element, however, that affects not only your ability to get back into your car but your ability to return to a regular routine. Even if your car accident wasn’t severe, you may find it difficult to get back to the point where you can get back to exercising without feeling worried about hurting yourself further. But it’s vital to keep exercising as you recover from an auto accident — with a doctor’s advice, of course. The speed with which you can move at all again is heavily dependent on the type of accident that you were in. Different injuries require different approaches, and it’s important that you go at your own pace when recovering.

Not everyone sees that recovery in the same sense. You may feel as if you need to get back to your old self as quickly as possible — especially if you’re used to working out at a certain level. While it may be tempting for some to attempt exercising the way they once did prior to their auto accident, you also shouldn’t rush yourself into overdoing it. You could easily exacerbate your injuries, or for that matter end up discouraged; after all, some people find that it’s hard to accept that they aren’t as strong as they once were following an auto accident. This is especially difficult when you weren’t at fault — perhaps you were the victim of another person’s poor choices. On the other hand, if you yourself made the mistake of incurring a DWI charge and ended up injured, the best thing you can do to move on with your life is establish a healthy routine. This often includes exercising. Fortunately, there are thousands of different ways through which you can exercise for 30 minutes a day. For most people who are either well on the road to recovery or recovering from minor injuries, this is a goal to aim for. With that being said, we’re looking into some of the different approaches you can take when working out after a car accident. Let’s dive in.

Working Out In The Water

Many of us don’t view swimming as exercising — at least not in the same sense that we view going to the gym. However, there are a lot of benefits to swimming after an auto accident, or at least easing yourself into exercising through the water. The suspension offered by water allows you to feel as if you aren’t working out. However, not only is exercising in the water just as valid as exercising out of it — there are some benefits to choosing the pool over land. Water actually offers resistance to movement. This means that you can build your strength by swimming. If swimming seems to be too intimidating, however, you may find that it’s easier to start by walking in the shallow end of the pool. There are different exercises you can try to accommodate the type of injury you sustained in your auto accident. Either way, pools are often utilized by rehabilitation centers; the therapeutic qualities of exercising in the water are well documented.

If you don’t have a water source at your own home, you don’t necessarily have to call up the pool designers immediately. There are solutions for those who lack pools of their own — but you’ll probably want to stick to a pool that isn’t overly crowded by regular swimmers. You certainly won’t want to encounter children when you’re first exercising after an auto accident. A gym membership may be the perfect compromise, offering you the workout source you need; otherwise, you may be facilitated through a rehabilitation center. As long as you stick to the shallow end of the pool, you can begin with many of the same types of cardio exercises that you would do out of the water. Ease into it. The goal with most water exercises is to gently strengthen your muscles and work your joints. As you build up to more intense forms of exercise, you may want to start deep water running as well. Not only does this offer the type of resistance that can’t be found through normal running — you’ll also be able to practice running without worrying about falling and hurting yourself.

Don’t feel as if you have to start with deep water running, of course. Even floating on your back can be a form of exercise, especially as it requires a bit of balance and steadiness. The point of exercising after a car accident — and the time in bed that is often required to recover — is build up and retrain unused muscles. Try knee lifts. You can support yourself against the pool wall and lift one leg, bending it at the knee while standing on the other. A standard leg raise is an alternative. By stretching out your leg rather than bending it, you’re able to extend the muscles of your leg. The warrior pose can be done in the pool as well. Supporting yourself with a hand against the pool wall, you should lean forward until your chin touches the water, and stretch out one of your legs. All of this can be done while you work your way up to deep water running and swimming — but before you do either of those, you may want to try jogging in the water as a sort of transition exercise. Keep in mind that exercising in the water needs to be done under proper supervision. There are many benefits to exercising in the water — but there is also a bit of risk if you aren’t fully recovered from your accident. Really, all workouts should be done with some degree of spotting until you’ve returned to your full strength. But again, working out in the pool is a good way to start retraining.

Dealing With Back Pain

Perhaps one of the biggest issues that people complain about following a car accident is back pain. Back pain tends to follow people around for years after a traumatic injury. The last thing you want is to become reliant upon painkillers to get through your day — and though it’s impossible to avoid back pain altogether after some injuries, you can lessen it greatly if you’re careful during your recovery. You’ll want to stay on top of your fitness and health in general. Take vitamin supplements to encourage healing, and stay in touch with your doctors and trainers to make sure that your progress is being properly monitored.

Starting out, it’s a good idea to utilize a yoga mat — in order to offer yourself some degree of support. Work on your lower abdominal muscles. This will allow you to strengthen your back without straining it. One great exercise involves lying on your back with your knees bent, and bringing one knee to your chest while taking deep breaths. You’ll repeat this with one leg about five or six times, then work on the other. After a while, you may want to work up to exercising your deeper abdominal muscles. Laying on your side, you may want to place a cushion under your head and bend towards your knees. This is a great alternative to crunches or sit-ups, which while not without merit can be rough on your recovering back. The point is to feel as if you’re bringing your belly button towards your spine, and holding that position for five to ten seconds. Once you’re able to work on your hands and knees — which can take some time depending on the car accident you were in — you should try what is often called the bird dog. This involves getting on all fours, then extending one leg out, as well as the opposite arm. You’ll hold this position for five to ten seconds as well. The point of these exercises is exercising slowly, and building up your muscles in a gentle way. Not only is this healthier for you in general — you’ll also be able to deal with any confidence issues or anxiety you might have about returning to regular workouts.

Returning To Sports After A Car Accident

If you were into sports prior to your car accident, your recovery process can be incredibly frustrating. Many of the workout websites you’re used to looking at are probably directed at people who don’t have to worry about injuries, or lingering after-effects like back or foot pain. Now — depending on your specific injury, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to return to your sport of choice. In that case, you may have to look for alternatives. Heavy contact sports like football are not ideal for those recovering after car accidents. You may also want to rule out soccer, and perhaps basketball. But the right types of sports can also function as their own forms of physical therapy.

We’ve already discussed swimming as a possible form of exercising after a car accident. You could work up to swimming as a replacement for running, if you’d like to stay competitive without pushing yourself too hard. On the other hand, golf could be a great alternative should you want to stay on dry land. Golf is a relatively gentle sport. You won’t be in contact with any of your competitors, and you can go at your own pace. Yes, it has a reputation for being somewhat sedated — but that’s not a bad thing when you’re recovering from a traumatic injury. Golf also aids in exercising your joints. The swinging motion eases you into strengthening your back as well, while remaining upright. Of course, even if you’re just beginning to golf, you’ll probably want to start with gentle floor exercises first. No matter how you build up to exercising through golf, you shouldn’t take the slow qualities of this sport as a sign that you can just jump into it. Before beginning any sport, you should be cleared by your doctor as well.

Of course, if you’re not sure about golf or swimming, there are other sports you can take up. A lot of people like the idea of frisbee golf, as opposed to typical golf — it’s not incredibly strenuous, but will still help you exercise. Volleyball is also an option. You can make that kind of sport as intense or easy on your body as you want it to be. Keep in mind that no matter what kind of sport you choose, it needs to cater to your specific type of injury.

At the end of the day, returning to any type of exercise after a car accident is just as much about your mental health as your physical health. It’s about building up your confidence. However, you should accept ahead of time — to avoid discouragement — that you may not return to the physical state you were in before your accident. If you do, it will probably take a long time. That doesn’t mean that your exercise isn’t working, and it doesn’t mean that you’re less than the person you were before you were injured. It simply means adjusting to a new lifestyle. With the right attitude and exercises, however, you’ll be healthy again before you know it.


Caroline is a freelance content creator and creative writer. VCUArts alum with a focus on the arts, travel, and culture.