Exercising During Stem Cell Therapy: Know Your Blood Counts

Regular exercise following a stem cell implant prevents you from losing strength and helps you overcome fatigue. But as important as it is to incorporate exercise into your normal daily activities, exercising too hard or in the wrong way can do you more harm than good. Although regular exercise plays an essential role in your treatment and recovery, your safety and well-being are key concerns. Once a health care professional, like Glory Wellness Center and Weight Loss Clinicdevelops a program for you, it will be necessary for you to monitor your vital signs and lab results as part of your stem cell therapy.

1. Check your heart rate. You can find your heart rate – a measure of how hard you are working during exercise – in the wrist or neck. Count the number of heart beats for 60 seconds before, during, and right after exercise. You don't want to overdo it, but you need to exercise at a pace intense enough to raise your heart rate.

To know your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Multiply that number by a percentage (usually between 50% or 80% depending on the intensity your doctor recommends). Once you multiply these numbers, you'll have our ideal heart rate. Then when you exercise, check your pulse for 60 seconds to see if you fall into your target range. Target heart rates aren't the same for all age groups and vary depending on your fitness level. For moderate intensity exercise, multiply that number by 50 to 70 percent to get an idea of your target heart rate.

2. Check your breathing rate. Like your heart rate, check your respiration rate before, during, and immediately following exercise. Place one hand either on your chest or stomach so that you can feel it rising and falling. Count the number of times you breathe in and out in 60 seconds. Count each time your chest or stomach rises and falls as 1 breath.

3. Know your latest blood lab values. Every time you visit your doctor or get a blood transfusion, ask for your most recent lab values, including your platelet count and hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. It's important to know these values, as exercise can lower blood cell counts – sometimes to the point of making exercise unsafe.

Hemoglobin/Hematocrit Values

Your body needs more oxygen when you exercise; therefore, it's important to know your latest hemoglobin and hematocrit levels to make sure they aren't too low to begin with. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body's tissues and organs, whereas your hematocrit value is a measure of the number of red blood cells in your blood. Depending on the range, you may only be able to exercise to tolerance until your blood counts rise to normal levels.

A normal hemoglobin value is more than 13.5 g/dl for men and more than 12 grams per deciliter for women. While the threshold for normal hematocrit values may vary, the normal range for men is 38.8 to 50 percent and 34.9 to 44.5 for women.

Platelet Count

Depending on your platelet count, you may not be able to exercise or may have to limit the intensity of exercise. Platelets help your blood to clot, so over-exerting yourself when you exercise can lead to blood in your urine and/or stool or bleeding from your nose, gums, ears, or whites of your eyes.

If your platelet count is above 50,000 per mcL, blood usually clots normally. But avoid lifting weights and try not to fall or do intense sports to prevent the chance of bleeding. Spontaneous bleeding generally doesn't occur unless the count falls between the 10,000 to 20,000 per mcL range.