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5 Ways to Safely Exercise With Anemia

Even if you have anemia, exercise isn't off the table! See how to work out safely and live an active life.

When someone is anemic, the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the body, making it challenging to exercise. However, that’s not to say exercising and anemia can't go hand in hand. Take these simple precautions to maintain your workout routine when you’re living with anemia. 

1. Start off slow. If you have anemia, exercising too intensely too soon might leave you feeling fatigued due to a lack of oxygen circulating through your body. Start your workouts slow and progressively increase the intensity over time. Stick to lower intensity workouts, too, like a yoga class or a walk rather than a run or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. 

2. Take breaks often. Always listen to your body. If you feel tired, pause and assess whether or not you can continue. Also, only do what you can. Pushing yourself to your limit is not necessary, so if you feel exhausted, sit down and catch your breath. Waiting it out might be the best option. 

3. Shorten your workouts. Any amount of exercise is better than none. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of more intense exercise each week. Getting closer to 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of strenuous activity on a weekly basis, however, provides even greater health benefits. But if long or intense workouts seem daunting, just try to sit less and move more. If you have anemia, exercise doesn’t have to be long to be beneficial. Shorter workouts, such as walking around the block or climbing stairs, add up and contribute to your weekly physical activity goal. 

4. Timing is key. Work out when you feel the most energized. For some, working out in the morning is when they have the most energy. For others, a late-night gym session is when they hit their peak performance. Sometimes this takes trial and error, but work out when you feel most invigorated. 

5. Talk to a healthcare provider. Be sure to talk to your primary care physician to ensure your workout routine is safe, and remember to always stick to the treatment plan already prescribed to you. Because there are both mild and extreme forms of anemia, you may have to change up your routine. 

Exercising with anemia is possible as long you don’t overexert yourself. Listen to your body’s needs and act accordingly. 

Medically reviewed in February 2020. Updated in March 2021. 

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