My Views About Exercise Changed as I Grew Older

Tito Oye avatar

by Tito Oye |

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Sickle cell disease and exercise were antonyms for me growing up. I was raised with the view that they do not go hand in hand.

My parents saw how vigorous activity adversely affected my health, so they discouraged it. From primary school to secondary school, I would hand my gym teachers notes from my parents excusing me from any exercise they deemed too vigorous.

During colder seasons, I avoided sports that involved staying outdoors for long periods. I understand the reasoning: It wasn’t worth the risk of a sickle cell crisis. 

This was never something I questioned as a kid with sickle cell. I found most exercises to be exhausting, and I didn’t enjoy them at all. To be able to sit them out was a plus in my eyes, and I could spend that hour relaxing.

I never thought to bring the issue up with my healthcare professionals, and now I am sure they would have advised me to do otherwise.

As I grew up and began taking the management of my health into my own hands, I started to better understand the benefits of exercise. The range of health benefits one gains as a result of maintaining an active lifestyle is vast. These benefits include a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers, and higher self-esteem, among others. 

However, as someone with sickle cell disease, I had to take a different approach to exercise. Because of the potential consequences of fatigue and overexertion that I face as a result of exercise, I must be more careful to avoid a sickle cell crisis.

When starting a new form of exercise, I try to research the areas of my body that will be worked the most, the stretches that will help my body complete the exercise optimally, and the low-impact versions of the exercise in case I am unable to do it at full intensity.

I never expect to begin perfectly or do an exercise for a long period. I aim to start slowly, then build on what I can do as my body becomes stronger, more flexible, and more familiar with the movements.

With this approach in mind, I have set myself a new fitness goal, which in the past I never would have thought I had the chance of attaining. Over the next couple years, I would love to train and run a 5K without stopping. It may sound minuscule for many people, but it would be a huge achievement for me. When I do start training, I’ll be building my endurance incrementally.

What are your fitness goals? Was taking part in physical activity encouraged or discouraged for you when you were younger? Please share in the comments below. 


Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


Orphelia avatar


I discovered I had sickle cell disease at the age of 16. I used to wonder, why I could not keep with the other students in PE class. I always felt dizzy, tired, and short of breath after just a couple of minutes of running or playing some other sport.
I am now 35 and I love walking, sometimes for as little as 15 mins or as long as my body can keep up, without me getting out of breath or feeling like I am going to pass out. I also recently started yoga and that's going pretty well.
Even with SCD, exercise is important. Just make sure you listen to your body. I have learned, doing a little every day is better than pushing yourself over the limit which may result in a crisis.

Tito Oye avatar

Tito Oye

Hi Orphelia,

Wow, I can't imagine what it must have been like to find out at the age of 16. I guess there must have been some sort of relief as you have an explanation for the symptoms you were feeling.

I love walking too!!! Definitely my go-to exercise.

I agree with you 100% doing too much exercise at once can do more harm to the body than good!

Victor Doherty avatar

Victor Doherty

I will be 50yrs later this year. I used to love exercise and weight lifting as a teenager but will get frequent crisis so my parents discarded my equipment and discourage me from doing it. Today I have a heart condition and AVN(necrosis) in all my joints hips,shoulders,knees. Am putting on weight as I grow older and not so easy to lost the lbs. I know I should be exercising but cannot. So what can some one like me do?

Tito Oye avatar

Tito Oye

Hi Victor,

Congratulations on almost reaching 50, that's such an amazing milestone!!!

A lot of people are in the same situation, where the consequences of exercise experienced at a young age deterred them from continuing. Do speak to your healthcare providers to see what they recommend in terms of what exercises may be best for you.

What I would suggest is to start going on walks to increase your activity levels, and make sure you do some stretches both before and after.

As you get more familiar with walking certain distances, increase the distance gradually or try and pick up the pace to challenge yourself.

Please do keep me updated with what you try, I'd love to hear how it goes ♥️💪🏾


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