Physical activity and sickle cell disease

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Spending more time moving during the day helps most people with sickle cell pain feel more able to take part in activities they enjoy. Learn more about why uptime (time spent moving) is important and how to get more of it.

Key points

  • Try to increase the time you spend moving around (uptime) and limit the time you spend sitting or lying down (downtime).
  • Some of the benefits of regular activity include less stress, feeling happier and better sleep.
  • Uptime does not always have to be vigorous exercise. In fact, it should include walking to school or work, doing household chores like laundry or playing sports.

Think about how you spend your days. Do you have a lot of downtime (time spent sitting or lying down)? Do you have a lot of uptime (at least 30 to 60 minutes a day spent moving, for instance walking, doing chores or playing sports)?

More uptime during the day helps most people with sickle cell pain feel more able to take part in important and enjoyable activities.

If your uptime is low, you can set a goal to increase it. Later, you will figure out which activities may help get you up and moving more.

Why increase uptime?

Blue, bean-shaped Copey character standing on a yoga mat with their arms stretched out to the sides

Regular uptime has several benefits.

  • Activity causes the brain to release feel-good hormones called endorphins. These can reduce your stress levels and make you feel happier.
  • Regular activity during the day can improve your sleep.
  • Regular activity can improve your aerobic or cardiovascular fitness (how your heart and lungs work together).
  • Regular activity can improve muscle tone. It can also keep your muscles strong, which can reduce sensations of muscular pain.

Doing activities you enjoy

Copey characters playing kickball

It is more fun to spend your uptime doing activities that you enjoy! You’ll be more likely to get started with the activities and stick with them over time.

Below is a list of activities. Choose at least three activities that you like to do (whether or not you are able to do them fully right now).

  • Biking
  • Baseball or softball
  • Rollerblading
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Tennis
  • Exercise equipment like elliptical machine or treadmill
  • Pilates, yoga or aerobics

Other activities:

Last updated: January 4th 2024