Skip to main content

Non Weight Bearing Activity

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

Non weight bearing (NWB) activity is exercise or motion you can do without supporting your own weight. For example, your weight is supported by water when you swim. NWB activities will not cause impact or strain. You can increase your strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and balance with NWB activities. You can also prevent muscles from becoming tight or short after an injury. You may only need to do NWB activities until an injury heals, or you may need to continue if you have a long-term condition. Your healthcare provider will tell you how long to continue doing NWB activities.


Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain becomes worse.
  • You have new pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Why you may need NWB activities:

  • Rest for one or both of your legs or knees after an injury or surgery
  • Weak or brittle bones that would break if you put too much weight on them
  • Joint pain from being overweight or from arthritis makes weight bearing exercise painful
  • Elderly age
  • Limited mobility in your legs
  • Lack of cartilage in one or both knees
  • Diabetes complications such as neuropathy increase your risk for falls and make walking difficult
  • Long-term low back pain

Examples of NWB activities:

  • Swimming, water aerobics, or rowing
  • Riding a bicycle or using a stationary bicycle
  • Lifting weights or using resistance bands while seated
  • Using a hand bike to work only your upper body
  • Range of motion exercises for joint flexibility
  • Isometric exercises that tighten and relax muscles several times in a row
  • Certain yoga poses that do not need you to support your weight

Go to physical therapy as directed:

A physical therapist can teach you NWB activities that will build muscle strength and improve your balance. The therapist will show you how to prevent injury and decrease your risk for falls during NWB activity. For example, the therapist can show you how to use assistive devices such as crutches to help support your weight. The therapist will also help you plan NWB activities that will raise your heart rate for cardiovascular exercise. Adults should try to get at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week.

What you need to know about safety:

  • Stop if you feel pain. Do not move joints beyond their normal range of motion. Rest your joints during a flare if you have a disease such as arthritis. Do not lift heavy weights unless you can handle the weight easily. You may need to work up to using heavy weights. Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel pain during your activities.
  • Move slowly and smoothly. Do not make fast or jerky motions.
  • Use assistive devices as directed. Support your weight on crutches, a walker, or other devices as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Do a variety of activities. The same activity every day may injure a muscle or joint. You may overtrain some muscles and not train others enough.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about safe activities during pregnancy. You may not be able to lift weights while you are pregnant. Your healthcare provider can help you plan safe NWB activities during pregnancy.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Non Weight Bearing Activity

Care guides

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.