Exercise Safely With Chronic ITP

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on December 06, 2021

Chronic immune thrombocytopenia (cITP), an autoimmune disease, requires you to keep an eye on your platelet counts and keep up with your medicines. Fatigue is also par for the course, thanks not only to the side effects of treatment, but also because of anemia or other underlying autoimmune conditions.

In the middle of all of this, exercise may be the furthest thing from your mind. It may seem scary, too, since cITP puts you at risk of bleeding. That said, physical activity is key for a better quality of life.

Before you start a new exercise program -- whether at home or at a gym, alone, or with others -- check with your doctor. You might also seek out a physiotherapist, an exercise specialist who can help design a plan that takes your cITP into account.

This is especially key for children, who tend to be more active but less wary of getting hurt. Setting the right balance is important because kids love to stick with their routine and don’t want to miss out on fun.

Why Exercise?

As is the case for everyone, exercise can improve fitness and well-being for people with cITP. Yoga, for example, can help boost your energy and ease fatigue.

Also, the steroids that are often at the heart of cITP therapy can cause weight gain and muscle loss.

Physical activity will help you stay in shape no matter what your age. It can help keep your muscles strong and your body flexible. For someone with cITP, who can bleed heavily from bumps and falls, activities that improve balance can be really helpful.

How to Play It Safe

After you and your doctor decide on your exercise plan, there are some things you should keep in mind during your fitness journey:

  • Overdoing it can lead to injury. Start slowly with low-intensity exercise and “listen” to your body.
  • Be sure to warm up and cool down.
  • Wear medical alert jewelry that mentions your diagnosis. This will let paramedics and others know about your cITP in an emergency.
  • Join a walking club or a gym. You’ll meet other people who can keep you motivated and help you enjoy your workout.
  • Think about whether you might need tools to prevent injury while you exercise, like knee pads or hip protectors.
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable, slip-resistant, wide in the toe, lack heels, and fit well.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors at night, when it might be hard to see.
  • Stay on even surfaces like smooth sidewalks, and keep to places that are well lit. Also, watch out for things that might make you trip.

After you’ve been at it for a while, you may want to try some new things. As always, talk with your doctor before you do. Also:

  • Avoid contact sports like football, which might lead to an injury that causes bruising or bleeding.
  • If your original plan didn’t include them, you might want to try activities like cycling and swimming that are low-risk and aren’t weight-bearing.
  • “Conditioning,” where you practice and train, can help you exercise safely as you grow stronger.
  • To improve your balance, if you haven’t tried it already, ask about yoga or tai chi.

Keep at It

Exercise will soon become a habit after you realize how good it makes you feel. A lot of people -- not just people with cITP -- believe they face barriers to fitness. Stay with it, try new and fun activities, and make a plan. It’s worth it.

Show Sources


Platelet Disorder Support Association: “Living With ITP.”

Pediatric Blood & Cancer: “Management of Activity in Immune Thrombocytopenia, Fat or Fit?” BetterHealth: “Older People – Preventing Falls at Home.”

Go4Life: “How to Stay Safe During Exercise and Physical Activity.”

UW Health: “ITP: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura.”

Go4Life: “Be Safe When Exercising Outdoors.”

Go4Life: “Overcoming Barriers to Exercise: No More Excuses.”

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