There’s no doubt that participating in sport and exercise can have many benefits – from improving your physical fitness to having a positive effect on your overall wellbeing. And the good news is that advances in haemophilia therapy over the years have meant that people with haemophilia now have lots of opportunities to become actively involved. Here we provide answers to some frequently asked questions that you may find helpful.
What are the benefits of participating in sport and exercise?
A key benefit of participating in sport and exercise is that it increases strength, flexibility and balance, which may help reduce the occurrence of injuries – and, as a result, bleeds, which has important implications for your joint health. Being part of a team and competing can also be great for building friendships and self-confidence. Not to mention that playing sport and exercising can be great fun!
What sport or exercise can I participate in?
Everyone is unique, and there is no one sport or activity that is right for all people with haemophilia. Your ability to participate in certain activities will depend on some individual factors, such as the severity of your condition, your bleeding history, the health of your joints and muscles, and your physical capabilities. A good example is if you’ve experienced recurring ankle bleeds, then swimming might be a better option for you instead of jogging.
Remember, it’s important to seek advice from your Haemophilia Treatment Centre to develop a plan, and your physiotherapist, before engaging in any sport or exercise regimen.
How can I reduce my risk of injury?
Once you and your Haemophilia Treatment Centre have agreed on a sport or activity that is right for you, there are a range of things you can then do to ensure that you reduce your risk of injury. This may include having properly-fitted safety equipment specific to your sport, wearing the right kind of shoe for your chosen sport or activity, playing in a team that is grouped according to size and ability, not age, and taking the time to warm up, stretch and cool down. Your Haemophilia Treatment Centre can provide you with advice to help you participate in your chosen sport while minimising risks, and it’s also a good idea to talk to your coach, if you have one, about your condition.
How can I keep my joints as healthy as possible?
While repeated bleeds into a joint can cause permanent changes that lead to pain, stiffness and weakness in the joint, rest assured that there are plenty of things you can do to help ensure your joints stay as healthy as possible. For example, physiotherapy forms an essential part of maintaining joint health and you should make sure that you do any exercises that your physiotherapist recommends regularly. It’s also important to stay active, as this will decrease your risk of joint bleeds. This should include choosing a sport or activity that reflects your abilities and physical condition and is not considered to be high contact. Your physiotherapist may be able to help design or adapt exercise programs to accommodate any muscle or joint problems you may have.
How important is it that I eat a healthy diet?
Eating a healthy balanced diet is vital for everyone – especially for those with a long-term condition like haemophilia. This is because people with haemophilia need to ensure they get sufficient nutrients to maintain normal blood volume and blood cell production, while maintaining a healthy body weight.
While there is no special ‘haemophilia diet’, the best approach is to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, eat whole grains, and choose low-fat dairy products. It would help if you also tried to avoid high-calorie snack foods and beverages and be aware of portion sizes. Your Haemophilia Treatment Centre can help to advise you on a healthy diet and nutrition that suits your individual needs.