Exercise & Low Platelet Count

A low platelet count, technically known as thrombocytopenia, occurs when the blood loses platelets faster than the bone marrow replaces them. The condition develops from many different underlying causes, and sometimes, no cause can be found. The forms of exercise you can safely participate in with this condition depend on how low your platelet count is, according to physician and hematologist Claire Harrison, writing at Net Doctor.


Platelets are blood cells that are essential for proper clotting. Clotting is necessary to prevent excessive bleeding and hemorrhage. A sufficient number of platelets also is required to prevent red blood cell leakage from blood vessels that apparently are not injured. When low platelets lead to increased bleeding, the problem may appear as tiny hemorrhages on the skin, a condition known as purpura. People with low platelets also bruise more easily, and are likely to have nosebleeds and bleeding gums. A low platelet count tends to cause fatigue and tiredness. Normal platelet count is 150,000 to 400,000, according to the Ohio State University Medical Center. A mild risk for increased bleeding develops when platelets drop to 50,000 to 100,000. Platelet count numbers commonly are shortened, for instance as 50 to 100.


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Many health situations cause low platelets. They include rare inherited disorders; diseases affecting bone marrow, such as leukemia; chemotherapy; kidney dysfunction; autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus; viral infections; reactions to blood transfusions; excessive alcohol intake; and low levels of vitamin B12. Some people also develop chronic low platelet levels for no apparent underlying reason, a condition known as idiopathic thrombocytopenia.

Exercise Considerations

Exercise can cause very small injuries to tissues and small blood vessels, a normal occurrence, notes the Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of British Columbia. These injuries usually heal easily because platelet cells stop any bleeding. When platelet count is low, bleeding is not stopped effectively, causing purpura, abnormal bruising and more serious effects. People with low platelets who cut or scrape their skin, for instance, can bleed so severely they need emergency attention.


Exercise Recommendations

The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of British Columbia provides specific exercise recommendations for different levels of low platelets. Limit all activity when the count is less than 15,000. When platelets are 15 to 20, you may do gentle exercising that does not involve resistance. This could include exercising while sitting or standing, gentle stretching or taking an easy walk. A platelet count of 20 to 40 allows you to use some light resistance, such as weights or latex bands. You can walk faster and climb stairs. At platelet levels of 40 to 60, add exercises such as stationary cycling and golfing. Higher levels, that are still considered too low, allow for aerobic exercise such as biking and jogging, but require wearing proper gear and taking caution against injury.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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