Enhancing lifestyle for individuals with haemophilia through physical activity and exercise: the role of physiotherapy


Kristy Wittmeier, University of Manitoba, Department of Physiology, 432 BMSB, 730 William Avenue, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3E 3J7. Tel.: (+1) 204-787-1783; fax: (+1) 204-787-1034; e-mail: KWittmeier@exchange.hsc.mb.ca


Summary.  For individuals with haemophilia, the benefits of many forms of physical activity outweigh their risks. Although activities with significant trauma risk should be avoided, persons who have haemophilia can participate in, enjoy and even excel in a variety of physical activities and sports. Both the National Hemophilia Foundation and the World Foundation of Hemophilia have produced documents to guide individuals with haemophilia and their healthcare professionals, coaches and parents in developing physical activity programmes and participation in sports. Physical activity guidelines for promoting health benefits exist worldwide and can be incorporated into individualized exercise programmes to ensure that a person with haemophilia is not only choosing appropriate activities, but also improving overall health and preparing the body to manage haemophilia better. Physiotherapy treatment is paramount in helping individuals prevent, manage and optimally recover from bleeds. Furthermore, the physical therapist, along with the haemophilia care team, can assist in preparing an individual to begin or progress to a physical activity programme that enhances fitness level, body composition and overall well-being. This article presents the unique role of the physiotherapist in facilitating safe participation in quality physical activity in the context of risks, benefits and activity recommendations. Participation in physical activity from an early age is ideal to facilitate the development of body awareness and capability and to foster the adoption of a physically active lifestyle; however, it is never too late to start. Consistent participation in quality physical activity beginning at any age is central to managing haemophilia and, equally important, to achieving overall health and well-being.