Staying Active with IDA – How to Exercise Safely

A Food Guide to Combating IDA

Physical exercise has several health benefits. Exercise provides positive psychological benefits and promotes overall wellbeing.2

Everyone should exercise. Even so, there are some medical conditions where doctors advise not to exercise because it can be harmful.1 Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is not one of those. However, IDA is associated with tiredness, reduced tolerance to exercise, shortness of breath upon activity and decreased quality of life.3 These physical symptoms make it difficult to exercise regularly. Anemia impairs physical performance during moderate and high intensity exercise.4 But let that not deter you from exercising.

You can exercise safely, just follow these simple tips:5

Get the nod from your doctor before you start any exercise regime.
Baby steps. Start with simple exercises like walking. You can ramp up slowly. It is important to start.
Do shorter workouts. Take breaks, if needed.
Listen to your body. Stop at any sign of distress like chest pain, extreme fatigue or difficulty in breathing.
Avoid high intensity aerobic exercises and high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Exercise at that time of the day when you feel the most energetic.
Switch to an iron-rich diet. See A Food Guide to Combating IDA.
Most importantly, remember to take your iron supplements.

Studies indicate that exercise training may help improve anemia.6 With the right diet, iron supplementation and physical exercise, you will notice marked improvement in your health. IDA induces lethargy and you may feel low on energy. Fight the fatigue, stay active, do regular exercise, combat IDA!

Recommended for iron supplementation for pregnant women.
If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.


1 Mandolesi L, Polverino A, Montuori S, et al. Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits . Front Psychol . 2018;9:509.

2 Vina J, Sanchis-Gomar F, Martinez-Bello V, Gomez-Cabrera MC. Exercise acts as a drug; the pharmacological benefits of exercise. Br J Pharmacol. 2012;167(1):1-12. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.01970.x.

3 Cappellini MD, Musallam KM, Taher AT. Iron deficiency anaemia revisited. J Intern Med. 2020;287(2):153-170. doi:10.1111/joim.13004.

4 Davies CTM, Chukweumeka AC, Van Haaren JPM. Iron-Deficiency Anaemia: Its Effect on Maximum Aerobic Power and Responses to Exercise in African Males Aged 17–40 Years. Clin Sci Mol Med. 1973;44(6):555-562. doi:10.1042/cs0440555.

5 Exercising With Anemia_ Prescription for Health. Published 2010. Accessed August 12, 2021.

6 Hu M, Lin W. Effects of Exercise Training on Red Blood Cell Production: Implications for Anemia. Acta Haematol. 2012;127(3):156-164. doi:10.1159/000335620.

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