Exercising with Sickle Cell

For some reason this is one of the most frequent questions and we’ve gotten on the sickle cell Warriors Facebook page.

How can I exercise and still not have to sickle cell crisis?

We’ve talked about this over and over again and the group was able to come up with some suggestions that have worked for others that have sickle cell disease.

1. Hydrate. You can never drink too much water when you have sickle cell disease. As we learned in our last article water should be our best friend. Take it everywhere with you; to the gym, in your car, at work, at school, and of course at home. When you exercise you perspire, and sweat makes you more dehydrated. Remember by the time you’re thirsty you are already 15 to 20% dehydrated. So if you plan to exercise drink before, during, and after.

2. Stretch. A good warm up gets your muscles nice and supple and ready to work out. Without stretching you are at a higher risk for injury and pain. Stretching also gives you time to connect with your body and kind of feel what you need to get done in that day and see if you are up for it. Sometimes during my warm-up or stretching I may notice that I’m starting to have small tiny pains in my back. To me I take this as a warning sign that I need to take it easy during that workout session.

3. Cardio. Cardio is good for you but should never be too intense. You need to find out where your safety zone is. You do this by finding how high your heart we can go and then you calculate 50 to 75% less than that. This is your safety zone. My safety zone is at 130 beats per minute. If I go higher than this I start to feel dizzy, like I want to throw up, and generally I’m guaranteed to have a crisis that very day. Sometimes when I’m doing cardio I can get completely in the zone, and forget to look at my heart rate. This is a recipe for disaster and is pretty much guaranteed to make me have pain the next day. So with cardio calculate your safety zone and stay in the zone.

4. Activities. The Facebook Warriors mentioned activities that are good for those with sickle cell. Stuff that has worked for them in the past are; pilates, yoga, walking, jogging, low intensity workouts, biking, some aerobic exercises, and lifting weights. Other people have tried with limited success; swimming, rock climbing, running, hiking, P90X. The general suggestion, was that you should listen to your body, and take it easy at first in order to build to your goal activity level.

5. Weight Lifting. They had the general appeal of gaining muscles, burning fat, and low cardiac impact. Many guys suggested that gave them the body that they wanted without having to stress about having a crisis afterwards. Sometimes it is better to have higher repetitions, with less weights. This builds muscular endurance, great veins!!!, and does not bulk you up too much.

The general consensus, was that it is important to listen to your body. Find the best work out regimen that works for you. Stretch well before and after. Even if you do fall sick, do not use this as an excuse to stop working out. When you get better, pick back right where you left off and keep on going. Don’t get frustrated because you fell sick. It just means that you were probably overdoing it. Take your knocks, learn your lessons, and move on to your next workout plan.

Happy work out!

SC Warrior


  1. Angelisa on August 29, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Keep up the good fight guys okay? Hey, why doesn’t the scdaa throw an annual telethon raising money for this disease so the poor can have bone marrow transplants? Why don’t you approach congress to have them make it illegal to refuse treat people with this?

  2. Bee on February 1, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks,this has been very helpful!

  3. Evelyn on April 26, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Hi warriors! I’m 17 and any activity I do I have abdominal pains. I talked to my doctor about it and he said it might be my posture, but whatever I do it is still there. It is really painful as far as doing an activity to which even if it is done sitting I feel the pain griping and the fatigue rushing. Please give me a suggestion fellow warriors. I would really appreciate it.

  4. OmozuhiomwencharlesO on September 26, 2018 at 11:53 am

    One thing that always helps those with sickle cell crisis is hydration with water and I also drink lot of raw cocoa. It works wonders.