Here are four ways to stay fit and make exercise a safe part of your sickle cell crisis prevention.
1. Drink LOTS of water: Dehydration – a loss of fluid – can slow down the blood flow in the body, increasing the chance of having a pain episode. Stay well hydrated at all times, but particularly before, during and after a workout.
2. Walking: The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, and research has shown there are several health benefits to walking at least 30 minutues a day. If keeping a slow, steady pace, oxygen consumption will also stay steady. Walking on flat terrain is less taxing on the body, so treadmill walking is a good option since you can control the incline (unlike outdoor walking).
3. Yoga: Stress can be a sickle cell pain trigger and the practice of yoga is proven to relieve stress in the mind, body and spirit. Learning to breathe properly is a large part of the yoga practice and the increased oxygen intake helps the circulation of blood. Bikram “hot yoga” may be all the craze, but it is NOT for you if you have sickle cell. Stick to a gentle flow like yin yoga, restorative yoga or hatha.
4. Swimming/Water aerobics (heated): Cold air and cold water is shockng to the body and can bring on a SCD pain crisis. However, even with sickle cell you can enjoy the benefits of low-impact water aerobics and swimming in an indoor heated pool. Before entering the pool, take a warm shower to avoid a sudden change in body temperature that can bring on a pain episode. Wrap yourself in a towel immediately after getting out of the pool.
Remember to rest when you feel tired and always consult with your doctor first before starting or changing your fitness regimen.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org Sickle Cell Anemia center for more.