The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate (“I can’t do that, can I?”)

The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate

For those of us on injections, warfarin or other blood thinning medications, whether or not to engage in physical activity, at what time and for how long remains a constant source of personal and, as I have noticed, even medical debate. What forums, articles and websites exist are full of questions about can I do this or that, when can I do it  and for how long can I do it, and they accumulate into what I like to call The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate (“I can’t do that, can I?”)

I remember quite vividly sitting in my doctor’s office one week after I was discharged from the hospital for my first follow-up appointment when I asked him, “Can I run again?” He assured me I could and would in fact if I so desired. “Can I run again now?” I questioned. He actually said I could run anytime I wanted, but my body would most definitely let me know when I was ready and when enough was enough. I set out that weekend to walk to the mailbox and back (thinking I would leave my oxygen tank inside for about 10 minutes) and I made it about six steps before my body said, “Enough is enough.” I retreated to the air conditioned living room, oxygen and a seat on the couch. I hated being inside, but I wasn’t ready to be outside in the dog days of summer, let alone on my feet for more than a minute or two. Emotionally, it was a setback I wasn’t at that time prepared to deal with; physically it was exactly what my body needed.

As the weeks and months went by, my doctor and I made several attempts to transition from injection thinners to warfarin, but the attempts failed and I remained on injections for about nine months since my diagnosis. It was only recently that I made the transition to warfarin and was able maintain healthy INR levels. It has taken me even longer – about 12 months – to get back to running with any degree of regularity and there are still days when I wonder, “What the heck am I doing?”

Once you are required to take blood thinners, especially if it is a lifelong prescription, you start to view life and the activities of it differently. A side effect of warfarin, combined with increased INR levels, is the potential for internal bleeding that can be dangerous, and even life threatening. The fact is, blood thinners do save lives because they treat or prevent serious blood clots; but they also pose one potentially serious side effect, which is bleeding because they slow the clotting of blood.

I don’t believe you have to stop living your life the way you want to when taking blood thinners. I believe we can still participate in the same activities we did before – or even new and better ones – we just have to be cautious of the potential side effects. It doesn’t mean we have to stop living, after all, many of us feel like we were given a second – third or fourth – chance, why not spend it how we want? You can still run, bike, hike, ride roller coasters, swim, travel, ride horses and learn archery along with a myriad of other activities. While a certain level of caution is necessary, especially if we hit our heads or see unusual bruising, there is nothing on the prescription bottle that says, “People taking this blood thinner should not___________.” I personally was never given a restriction on any activity, just to listen to my body – I would know what I could do, when I could do it and for how long. So far, that has been true.

Most of the time, bleeding caused by blood thinners is not serious or life threatening, although it is worrisome and inconvenient. Some examples of non-life-threatening bleeding are nosebleeds; a small cut while shaving with a razor; or minor cuts or skin tears. All of these types of bleeding may bleed longer than normal, but are not necessarily cause to panic and seek medical attention because they are superficial and can usually be controlled with added pressure apply to the wound for a longer amount of time. It takes me about 20 minutes to stop a nosebleed, which sometimes happen with the slightest wrinkle to my nose. Several products also exist to aid with clotting such as bandages, gels and powders like QuickClot, which aid in blood clotting, but do not disrupt the blood’s natural clotting abilities.

People taking blood thinners do not need to stop the activities they once enjoyed, especially after we are feeling well enough to participate in them again. They just need to take some extra precautions to maintain safety and peace of mind. For example, we do need to be cautious about things like high risk sports that may result in a head injury, but we do not need to stop them. We need to take extra precautions to increase our safety like wearing proper head gear when biking; gloves when gardening or working with tools and taking care with a few extra minutes when trimming hair and nails. Many people taking blood thinners also wear a medical alert bracelet to let others know they are on certain medications – like first responders in an accident – which can really add to peace of mind. You can find a myriad of medical alert bracelets on the internet and even find ones specific to sports and physical activity through RoadID. It could really save your life in an emergency or accident, especially if you are not able to speak for yourself.

No matter what activity we participate in, accidents do and will occur and sometimes these can produce superficial bleeding like from a cut or nosebleed and sometimes it could be serious, like if in a car accident or fall down the stairs. Just because we are taking blood thinners does not mean we need to stop or stop considering participating in activities that are viewed as dangerous. We can still participate in them, or even learn them for the first time, with a few extra safety precautions and common sense awareness. If you see unusual bruising or sustain a serious head or abdomen injury, you should contact medical professionals. There is no reason to stop living – even the life we’ve always imagined – when taking medications that undoubtedly save our lives. After all, it’s why we’re still here.

Share your story. Does taking blood thinners impact your decisions about normal day-to-day activity? What about extreme activities or sports? Have you given something up because you are worried about life-threatening bleeding? Did you start an activity you had always dreamed of participating in because of taking blood thinners?


There is hope for healing and you are not alone,




  1. richard meade ll says

    can I ride roller coasters while on blood thinners?

    • Hi Richard. This is something I would discuss with your doctor, depending on where you are in your personal recovery. I have ridden roller coasters while on blood thinners, but it was about a year and a half after my PE incident (I am on blood thinners long-term). For me, it was dependent on how well I felt, and I did not feel well enough to do much of anything prior to that time. If you just had a clot in the last few weeks, I would make sure your doctor is okay with it. Mine was not opposed to it as long as I exercised caution and took care of myself. It was a blast so I hope you are well enough to do what is best and fun for you too! Take care and thank you for writing.

    • I recently rode a roller coaster and while I was scared to death of the roller coaster and scared that I was on thinners, I actually had a good time. I was careful about not jarring my head too much. Today I went go cart racing. I think you just have to know the limitations of your body.

    • Regina Byers says

      I do and I am in my early 60s.

  2. At 23 years old (36 years old now), I was diagnosed with the DVT of a 70-80 year old, biggest/most massive clot in the entite region (unheard of in western Ky) 2 inches below my groin down to my inner left ankle. And I have been on disability since 13 or 14 years old, due to another medical problem of Fibros Displaysia (1 out of a million) and had my DVT for 12 years, was on blood thinners for 12.5 years. I have done a lot while on blood thinners. I was a Firefighter for 3 years and that on blood thinners and having DVT was the hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life. Through a miracle of God, I was given time in the Military Police. And Firefighting for 3 years was even harder than that! Because I got even hotter when around or in a fire, had to use “blow by” in my SCBA mask often just to cool me down. Then worked for the department of corrections for the state. During some of the cell house walks, during counting inmates at night, my sides would hurt from the 3 tiers and counting 150-200 inmates every 20 minutes for 8 hours. Yeah, Warfarin definitely took my breath away. But nearly off blood thinners 7 months now, and still feel reactions to cool or warm weather, Im still either freezing or burning up, constantly breathless… I just wonder what is to be expected. Will it always be like Im still on Warfarin or will things get better? Im not even going to try throwing another football. Always felt like I threw out my shoulder and my arm. I could throw far once and then done. Seems like while on blood thinners I was physically drained, and not much has changed after being off of them. Im at about midway through a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, but ended up getting bored with that and now thinking of going and getting my CDLs and give truck driving a spin, save up some money to later go back and finish school. Its tough raising a 5 year old on disability, so going to have to make a change in my life somewhere…

    • Jesper Ohlson says

      I’m 15 and I had a blood clot of similar size and I have been on blood thinners for about 6 months now, and to feel physically drained. I have heard that It gets better as you are on blood thinners for longer. (I am on Lovenox by the way).

  3. Hi!

    Thanks for your words. I was just informed about a blood clot in my Venus sinus and I did Krav Maga on a regular basis before my 10 day stay in the hospital. My biggest desire was to return to some “normal” life after I was released but not fully understanding my situation I was so upset when I didn’t go home running. Just naive and scared. I had trouble walking, seeing, still had a blood clot and now I was weak.

    My neurologist said to resume activity but to pay attention to my body while my general practitioner told me to stop all activity until more information was gathered. The cause is still unknown so I’m being patient to that regard. I have double vision for now and get tired easily so I realize I won’t go back and have the same stamina. Which is really hard to accept since I worked so hard to get better.

    Please know that I am thankful to be alive, thankful my stroke was caught with enough time there was no neurological damage. I’ll take what I have, put my faith in God and suck it up. Thanks for the opportunity to ventin s moment of weakness.

    The issue of activity was quite a topic of discussion today. This was perfect so that I could just relax. Others know how I feel.

    Thanks! Ceci

  4. Thank you for this, Sara. In January of this year (2016) I started jogging again for the first time in about 20 years. Two weeks later I had my PE which put an abrupt end to my new favorite pass time. I have been rather despondent about not being able to continue, although I’m managing walking more and more each day. However, your post has really shown that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for the reminder that we can still need a normal life; we just need to be patient with ourselves.

  5. I want to say thank you for this. My fiance just was released from the hospital this morning after finding a massive blood clot in his right thigh. After kidney cancer, and stage 3 kidney disease, I can honestly say nothing has scared me as much as having him put on Coumadin. I’ve been terrified and trying to learn as much as I can, the idea of him not being able to still be him scared me more than anything. Thank you for this.

  6. I had a dvt/PE in October 2016 (had 3 clots, largest was 12mm). Dr put me on 20mg Xarelto for 6 months.
    Im 34 and a tour guide that takes people hiking, mountain biking, wine tasting etc. I have been told that I cant mountain bike or drink alcohol. After 3 months I tried building back up to my old hiking fitness. I was amazed how I did not feel sore the next day however I was very tired a week later after pushing myself every day. Im getting married in 2 months and hope to have a glass of wine to celebrate and go on an adventurous honeymoon. However I feel that might not happen. I have been allowed to swim and do yoga. I am definitely not anywhere near my previous fitness and find my lungs get tired before my muscles even feel any effort. Besides swimming, hiking and yoga I have also gone kayaking and done a bit of sailing. I really miss the cardio of my road and mountain bike cycling as I will building up to long distances.Any other suggestions of sports? The light at the end of the tunnel has recently dimmed as recently my aunt ended up in hospital with the same thing dvt/pe. Dr told her it is genetic. That is news to me and makes me think that I may have to be on drugs for the rest of my life. Well if the dr’s have their way at least.

  7. I know this blog entry is a few years old, but this is the first I’ve seen it. I’m a PE/DVT/ischemic stroke survivor (this all occurred at the same time) on Warfarin for life. It’s been almost 11 years for me. I do all the things I love–ice skating, roller blading, bike riding, kayaking and paddle boarding. I figured I have to live my life and enjoy it because I was almost robbed of it.

  8. After a stroke 2 years ago I lost sooooo much confidence even just going to a supermarket was an ordeal which I couldn’t manage for weeks. Running had been my ‘thing’ with races on a weekend I lost all interest in wanting to run just watching my local park run couldn’t raise any interest even making me wonder why I’d ever run them at all. I also loved my bike so again after weeks I managed to cycle up and down my drive (not a large drive) To cut a very long story short one night whilst washing up after tea I got an urge to run!!! Crazy yes but that is exactly what happened so I put on my running shoes and ran to the bottom of our street next night I went further to the post box round the corner of our street I kept doing this increasing the distance when I felt like it. It felt like magic knowing I was still in one piece and no harm had come to me. It’s been a tough 2 years getting back to my old self( won’t say ‘normal’ cos I don’t know what ‘normal’ is) I still race at the weekends go swimming cycle do Pilates Doctors are aware of my activities and have never once said not to do them except think before contact sports, but I’m not a rugby type of girl well not to participate but watching is ok ‍♀️⛹️‍♀️ I think what will be will be and if anything were to ever to happen to me whilst running Please don’t be sad I’m doing what makes me happy ‍♀️‍♀️‍♀️

  9. I have had a multitude of heart problems since birth, but in 2014 they prescribed warfarin. I was never really able to do much of anything. I had a pacemaker which was around the center of my thoracic region. Contact sports were a big no-no. But with my pacemaker moved to my shoulder, the setback is now the blood thinners. I’ve wanted to skateboard for as long as I can remember and I think I will pursue it. I am careful and, like you said, we should enjoy our lives. So I will. Thank you for the extra information, it really helps

  10. I know this is a super old blog post, but I’m praying someone sees this and has answers for me. I’m 40 and Tuesday was rushed to the er thinking I was having a heart attack. Turns out, it was a PE and I have a massive clot in my left groin area. A piece broke off and traveled to my lungs. They have me on blood thinners. And man, they pack a punch. But, my question is, can I still have manicures and pedicures? I know that sounds vain, but I have a problem with my nails and like to have them covered up. When they removed the IV I bled for almost 2 hours because of the high dose blood thinners. So, I’m scared to have it done if it’s going to cause me to bleed. Any helpful hints for this newbie would be amazing. Thanks so much!!

    • I’m pretty sure you can! No reason why you can’t… double check with your health professional.

      I’m currently in hosp with a DVT and a PE, and thank god they spotted it . I’m on apixaban for life !

  11. HI
    I’m Ribal, I’m almost 21 years old
    I’m a young man in university
    last month, I diagnosed with cerebral artery dissection
    recovered, thanks GOD
    I’m under treatment with XARELTO bill
    I’m a little bit anxious about my life style

  12. I am 57 year old male. The bleeding and bruising suck. Had a typical widow maker heart attack and a stent installed. I try my best to live life with balance. Still ride mountain and road bikes, still do construction work, and lose at least a cup of blood a month. What scares me more that loosing my life is being alive without living. Effient.


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