Why Hemophiliacs Should Get Off the Couch


Exercise and an active lifestyle benefits our bodies in many ways, including weight loss and the prevention of diabetes. The thought of physical activity for people with hemophilia can be intimidating due to the risk of injury and/or triggering a bleed. Despite seeming counterintuitive, physical activity, when done correctly, can reduce symptoms of hemophilia AND has been shown to promote mental health in adults and children.

Let’s break it down:

Routine exercise supports weight loss. Being overweight or obese can cause reduced physical activity. For hemophiliacs, reduction in physical activity can actually make some symptoms worse. According to The World Federation of Hemophilia, being overweight can cause joint damage due to increased stress on the joint and raise the frequency of joint bleeds.

A physically active lifestyle, on the other hand, aids muscles in growth and development. Muscle development can actually decrease bleeding frequency, and, through weight loss, reduce impact on the joints where bleeds frequently occur.

Dynamic as well as isometric exercise improves muscle strength. Dynamic exercises involve more motion and bending of the joints, while promoting strength and gaining muscle. Bicep curls and squats are examples of dynamic exercises. Isometric exercises contract muscles and are usually used for patients in physical therapy because they pose little to no risk of injury. These types of exercises can be used by patients with more severe conditions of hemophilia because the joints do not move. Holding a plank position or a wall sit for short periods of time are examples of isometric exercises.

One study suggests that a variety of exercise programs and sporting activities can be performed safely in combination with adequate prophylaxis treatments in people diagnosed with hemophilia. Healthcare professionals agree that hemophiliacs should avoid high contact sports like wrestling, rugby, and football, and suggest lower impact sports like swimming, tennis, or golf. Each sport falls on a spectrum of low to high risk, and the individual risk factor should determine what sport you choose for yourself or your child. Think about present body build, bleeding history, and the current condition of your joints.

Physical activity also promotes mental and emotional health. Some children and young adults go through periods of feeling upset or depressed due to the physical limitations of their bleeding disorder. Exercise has been proven to fight depression and anxiety, and participating in low-risk sports can help children feel included and more like their peers. Sports participation and exercise build self-esteem and promote a positive self-image in children and adults.

Every case of hemophilia is different and unique, so talk to your doctor about what limitations you or your child may have before starting any type of exercise program or physical activity. Ideally, an exercise program should be prescribed by a physical therapist or doctor who is familiar with hemophilia and treatment.

For more detailed and specific information, including a comprehensive table that provides sports safety ratings by activity (produced by the National Hemophilia Foundation), click here.


Negrier, C., A. Seuser, A. Forsyth, S. Lobet, A. Llinas, M. Rosas, and L. Heijnen. “The Benefits of Exercise for Patients with Haemophilia and Recommendations for Safe and Effective Physical Activity.” Haemophilia (2013): 487-98. EBSCO. Web. 4 Oct. 2014. <http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.dist.lib.usu.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=d5013d1d-5460-413e-963a-f7bd4ff6f477@sessionmgr198&vid=1&hid=104>.




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