An important part of my role in the Hemophilia Association of the Philippines for Love and Service (HAPLOS) is the promotion of physical fitness and exercise. I see many young hemophiliacs strapped to wheelchairs and wearing protective gear. It pains me to see them deprived of the ability to play like regular children. I urge families in the HAPLOS community to encourage their children to exercise when possible.
I met recently with the mother of one of our organization’s members. Before our meeting, her son had sent me a Facebook message saying that he wanted to return to exercise. He wished to lose weight and have a stronger body, perhaps by swimming. However, his mom had reasonable hesitations about this pursuit following an iliopsoas bleed.
As a person with hemophilia who loves fitness, I strongly sympathized with his desire to improve his quality of life. I asked his mother about her son’s physical condition and general fitness. Her response was similar to many that I hear from HAPLOS members: “Ayoko na sana kasi baka magka-bleed pa siya ulit,” which translates to, “I don’t want him to exercise because I’m afraid it may just cause bleeds again.”
Fear is not prevention
I shared with the boy’s family my experience of using physical activity as a way to prevent bleeds. I’m an avid swimmer and I enjoy lifting weights. Before beginning a fitness routine, I was a walking stick with monthly bleeds. Thanks to exercise, my bleeding episodes have reduced from more than once a month to once every six months. I’m grateful to have a family that encourages physical fitness. I have a brother who is a skilled swimmer and a dad who does carpentry for fun, so we’re no strangers to sweat and hard work.
However, despite my family’s positive attitude toward exercise, they were apprehensive when I increased my weightlifting because of the injury risks. But I’m careful not to push myself beyond a manageable level. I take things slowly and steadily to ensure I don’t overwork.
Of course, there are setbacks. I acquired a shoulder injury that may have been caused by improper form or too much weight. I take these injuries as signs to slow down, but I don’t allow the possibility of bleeds to stop me altogether. I can prevent bleeds once I regain my strength. The pros will almost always outweigh the cons.
Going to the gym, lifting weights, and swimming has boosted my morale and given me a strong sense of normality. I’m no longer bothered by the pain of bleeding, plus I feel stronger and more energetic.
When talking to the kid’s mom, I saw fear and apprehension in her eyes. But it warmed my heart that she listened to her son when he told her about his need for exercise to prevent bleeds. I advised him to start slowly. I hope that she allows her son to participate in physical activities, especially swimming.
True prevention is keeping your body safe from injuries. I believe that the best way to prevent injuries is by keeping the body strong and stable through exercise.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.