Walking a the National Hemophilia Foundation Annual Meeting

Walking at NHF’s Annual Meeting

Organized activities at yearly hemophilia gathering
Author: Matt McMillen
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As you look ahead to the next National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) Annual Meeting, you'll need to plan ahead to fit in your exercise routine, with all the workshops, discussion sessions and social events on the agenda.

“Exercising in a group is a great way to meet people,” says Ruth Mulvany, DPT, MS, Annual Meeting co-chair and consultant at the University of Tennessee Comprehensive Hemophilia Clinic in Memphis. “Plus, working out gives you time to relax and get centered after the daily sensory overload of an information-packed conference like we are planning.”

Despite the meeting’s busy schedule, there are plenty of ways to work in working out. In this issue of HemAware, three physical therapists share tips on how to keep focused and make fitness fun during your stay in Denver.

But first, here’s something to keep in mind no matter what your workout. Denver is about a mile above sea level. That means the air has less oxygen than you’re used to (unless you live in the mountains). Though you may get winded more readily while working out—or simply climbing stairs—your body will adapt in a few days, according to Brenda Riske, MS, director of clinical and research services at the University of Colorado Denver’s Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center. Until then, Riske advises sticking to a light, comfortable exercise routine. Also, she recommends drinking three to four 8-ounce glasses of water in addition to the amount you drink at home. That’s the best way to stay hydrated in the dry mountain air.

On the Agenda

The meeting’s organizers have already done some of the planning for you. On Friday afternoon, attendees can channel their inner Bruce Lee in the session, “Fighting Monk: Kung Fu for People with Bleeding Disorders.” Led by a martial artist with hemophilia, participants will punch, kick and practice basic kung fu forms. The full-body workout can be tailored to each individual to avoid excessive stress on problem joints.

“If you have elbow problems, for example, you can still work your lower body,” says Kim Baumann, PT, of the Center for Bleeding and Clotting Disorders at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “This is a great opportunity to move around. I would recommend this to everyone.”

As in past years, the Fit ‘n’ Fun Walk/Run, organized by NHF’s Physical Therapists Working Group, will hit the streets of Denver on Saturday morning. Led by physical therapists, it offers two options: one short and less taxing, the other longer and a bit more challenging.

Walking is a low-impact exercise that nearly everyone can do, and it doesn’t have to be intense. Three 10-minute walks per day are enough to get your recommended daily dose of exercise, says Baumann. The group factor adds to the fun because it places you among friends. It also helps motivate you.

“If you know someone is waiting to go walking with you, you won’t roll over and go back to sleep,” Baumann says with a laugh.

On Your Own

The Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, the meeting’s main hotel, offers other exercise options—a fitness center and indoor pool.

“Even if you can’t swim, doing laps in the pool using a kickboard is great exercise,” Mulvany says. “Some pools have resistance exercise equipment that provides excellent workouts for people with impaired joints.”

Exercise can be worked into your schedule throughout the day. “When you have a small break, do some stretching exercises and walk around the hall three or four times rather than standing around with coffee,” suggests Sherry Herman-Hilker, PT, of the University of Michigan­’s Hemophilia Treatment Center in Ann Arbor. “Don’t forget to take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever possible.”

Know Your Limits

No matter how much time you find to exercise, you can be certain that you will be on the move a lot at the meeting. “You will probably be doing more physical activity than at home just by moving from session to session,” says Herman-Hilker. “Pay attention to any aches and pains, which may be signs of overexertion.”

Staying hydrated is something travelers often neglect to do, says Herman-Hilker. Carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day, she says.

Plan Ahead

Pack clothes you can exercise in, like sweats, a swimsuit and footwear. Baumann recommends packing a few elastic exercise bands, which will allow you to get a quick workout in the privacy of your own room. If you have a favorite exercise DVD, Baumann suggests tossing it in your suitcase as well. Most hotel rooms come equipped with DVD players.

It also helps to pencil in time to exercise before you go, says Baumann. Review the meeting schedule and find a few gaps between sessions, then make a workout appointment with yourself.

“If you don’t schedule it in advance, it’s too easy to find something else to do,” Baumann says. “If you put it off while you are away, even for the three days of the meeting, you will set yourself back. Why lose any of the strength that you worked so hard to gain?”

Make sure to make your workout fun, not a chore. “Workouts should be a reward, not a requirement,” says Mulvany.