Blood thinner medications are prescribed to patients who suffer from deep vein thrombosis (blood clot), pulmonary embolism (blood clot has migrated to the lung), claudication (walking induced pain in one or both calves) and ischemic heart diseases. A common belief that these conditions affect the elderly population, however healthy and athletic populations are also at risk of developing the above-mentioned conditions. The concern is whether exercise is helpful. The answer is yes. The following will show you what research are saying about exercise on blood thinner.

Ernst in 1987 looked at the influence of regular physical activity on blood flow. In his 3 month longitudinal study of untrained volunteers performing regular exercise revealed a decreased in their blood viscosity and an improvement in the red cell deformity. That conclusion suggests that physical exercise improved blood fluidity; hence improve blood flow through the process of blood dilution.

El-Sayed in 1998 looks at the effects of exercise and training on blood flow. He indicated that the blood of endurance athlete is more diluted as a result of endurance training. This suggests that exercise and blood thinner medication have a constructive effect the blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues.

An adaptation to exercise training is an increased in capillary formation and increased blood flow to muscles away from the occlusion. This adaptation allows increased in muscle contraction away from the occlusion, hence improved walking ability.

Exercise is shown to increase the production of nitric oxide within the capillaries, which is impaired in patient with diabetes type II, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. The nitric oxide is responsible for opening up the size of capillaries, resulting in increase blood flow hence facilitate oxygen delivery.

As exercise has increase benefit for patient taking blood thinner medication, it also has risk associated with it. Excessive bleeding is a risk to take seriously. Though the risk of bleeding is most of the time non-threatening such a cut from shaving, but it takes about 20 minutes to stop the bleeding. That can be annoying. Hence be careful with activities of daily living that may put you at risk. However, extreme sports such as football, basketball, soccer, rugby, mountain biking, skiing and so forth put you at high risk of life-threatening bleeding. Such sports are best left alone. Running, walking, stationary biking are safe to enjoy. Even outside biking is safe as long as you use the protective equipments to prevent damage to the skin or bone fracture.

By Raj Issuree, MPT

References:

Ernst E. Influence of regular physical activity on blood rheology. Eur Heart J 1987; 8 Suppl G: 59-62

El-Sayed MS. Effects of exercise and training on blood rheology. Sports Med 1998; 26(5): 281-92

Stewart KJ, Hiatl WR et al. Exercise training for claudication. NEJM 2020; 347: 1941-1951

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