Tips for starting a new exercise regime
Being physically active is essential for a healthy life whoever you are and this does not change because you have haemophilia. In fact, sensible exercise can be even more beneficial to someone with haemophilia as it helps you to develop strong bones and muscles that can protect your joints from the stresses of daily life.
Most people develop an interest in sport at an early age and should be encouraged to gradually ease into doing exercise.
For most people with haemophilia the benefits of involvement in almost all sports outweigh any potential risks, although it is worth considering the nature of the exercise from the outset. If you have any concerns speak to an expert at the Haemophilia Centre. The following should provide a useful checklist of things to think about before starting a new sport:
- The location of typical bleeds - some sports may be off limits due to past bleeding history and present joint condition. For example, those with a history of ankle or knee bleeds would need prophylactic treatment prior to participation in running sports and if ankle or knee bleeds occur regularly then they should refrain from these sorts of activities to prevent further joint damage
- The risks associated with the sport - it may be the case that participating in a sport with a high risk of injury could prevent someone with haemophilia from participating in other sports later on. This possibility and the other benefits and risks of specific sports should be discussed in detail
- The skill level that the sport is being played at – a kick around in the local park is very different to a competitive game of football
- The contact level of the sport - it is generally agreed that people with haemophilia should avoid rough contact sport. However, where there is the potential for contact it is important that you protect yourself properly by wearing appropriate clothing and protective equipment while you play. It is also important to ensure that there are no bleeds into the joints afterwards, and that a proper cool down is done to enable the body to recover gradually from the intense bursts of physical activity
For someone with haemophilia it is important to understand the value of overall conditioning, which includes muscle strengthening and stretching exercises, and this should always be an ongoing part of your exercise routine. In addition, it should be noted that exercises that are more closely related to a specific sport will help to target those muscle groups that need to be strengthened, thereby reducing the likelihood of an injury.
Warming up and cooling down
A warming up (5 to 10 minutes) and stretching session (5 to 10 minutes) should be done before all exercise and should concentrate on the muscle groups that will be used during the activity. In addition to this an exercise session should always finish with an equally thorough cool down (5 to 10 minutes) and stretch (5 to 10 minutes). It is true that this routine should be followed by everyone, but most people don't take the time to do these things properly and, as a result, injuries can happen, and for someone for with haemophilia preventing an injury is key.
Despite all precautions, participation in a sport will sometimes lead to a bleeding episode. It is important that the early signs are responded to quickly and that the risks of not doing so are understood.
If a bleed does occur as the result of a sports-related injury it must be stopped using your prescribed treatment. You should also contact your Haemophilia Centre for further advice and follow the PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) principle (click here for more information). If a bleed is more serious it can leave joints and muscles feeling stiff and sore for long periods of time and this might mean taking it easy for a while and rebuilding flexibility and strength slowly before resuming sport. You should also contact your Haemophilia Centre for further advice.