When you have immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), you’re on high alert trying to avoid anything that might cause an injury. Consequently, you may think it's unsafe to engage in any physical activity. Yet, keeping an active lifestyle is a key component to your well-being — whether you have ITP or not.

Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. While exercise itself won't cause the bleeding and purpura (bruising) that are symptomatic of ITP, there are precautions you can take to prevent any injuries from happening. Also, your doctor can recommend workouts that are best tailored to you.

Read on to learn more about exercising with ITP.

Exercise is beneficial to both your physical and mental health. Not only will it build strength and endurance, but it can also boost your mood.

You may think that being active can make you more prone to bleeding. Yet, regular exercise is essential for ITP management. Some of the benefits include:

  • muscle building
  • better endurance
  • weight management
  • decreased stress and anxiety
  • reduced risk of depression

Since ITP can also cause fatigue, regular physical activity may also help with daytime tiredness. And, keeping an active lifestyle can also help you sleep better through the night.

Before you get started on a new exercise routine, ask your doctor for their recommendations based on your most recent lab work. If your blood platelet levels have stabilized between 140,000 and 450,000, then your doctor might give you the OK to engage in rigorous activities that are still safe and appropriate for ITP.

As a rule of thumb, the best workouts are challenging but fun. Low-impact exercises are best if you have ITP because they don’t carry a high risk of injury.

Some ideas of low-impact exercises include:

  • walking, outside or on a treadmill
  • stationary biking
  • elliptical machine
  • hiking
  • swimming
  • gardening
  • yoga

Keep in mind that “low-impact” doesn’t mean these activities are low in intensity. As you gradually build your cardiovascular health, you can increase the intensity level, so your heart and other muscles continue to grow stronger. For example, you may increase your walking speed or increase the distance of your lap swims every week or couple of weeks.

Jogging and running aren’t traditionally considered “low-impact” exercises, since they do involve more force on the body than walking does. However, many people with ITP safely include running in their exercise plan. Talk to your doctor about safety precautions to take if you’d like to add jogging to your list of activities.

While exercise is important for your overall health, high-impact and contact activities aren’t considered safe if you have ITP. These types of workouts increase your risk of injury, which can lead to bleeding issues.

Examples of activities to avoid include:

  • basketball
  • biking (street or mountain)
  • boxing
  • football
  • hockey
  • ice skating
  • rollerblading/roller skating
  • soccer

These high-intensity activities are common, but they're not the only ones. If you’re unsure about a particular activity, consider if there’s a high risk of falling or getting hit. And, make an appointment with your doctor. They're your best bet to figure out which activities are safest for you.

If you're still concerned about the risk of physical injury while working out, you may want to consider getting a personal trainer. They can guide you so that you feel more confident enough doing them on your own.

You can inquire about certified trainers at your local gym. Some trainers also work independently and travel to their clients’ homes.

If you do decide to work with a trainer, make sure they know about your ITP and any limitations you might have. Talk to your doctor before getting started, too.

Regular exercise can help with ITP and may even prolong your life. You’ll likely find it easier to manage your weight, and you'll have more energy, too.

Still, there’s a slight risk of injury, even with a low-impact activity. When you have ITP, you know how any minor injury can lead to bruises, rashes, and excessive bleeding. Also, if your platelet levels are on the low side, you can be at risk of internal bleeding.

Aside from getting your platelet levels checked regularly, you can prepare yourself for a mishap by keeping an emergency kit on hand that contains compression wraps to stop bleeding. A portable ice pack can also soothe an oncoming bruise and prevent internal bleeding. You may also consider wearing a medical bracelet at all times in case there’s an emergency and you’re unable to communicate about your condition with medical personnel.

You’ll also want to have your medications on hand in case of an emergency. These include clot-stabilizers or bleeding reducers such as aminocaproic and tranexamic acids.

An active lifestyle is beneficial for anyone. And if you’re living with a condition like ITP, regular exercise can help you to build muscle and improve your mood. By choosing low-impact activities, you can improve your health while also limiting your risk of injury.

If you do get injured during an activity, call your doctor right away. This is especially important if you have bleeding that won’t stop.