Healthy Living

Blood donors know that giving blood saves lives. But it also comes with some extra perks: free cookies and juice, and an excuse to take a night off from the gym. After giving blood, donors are advised by Canadian Blood Services to avoid strenuous activity for six to eight hours. But can giving blood affect your future workouts, too? Physiotherapist and owner of Edmonton’s WePhysio Performance & Wellness, Craig Brososky, shares his top fitness tips on blood donation and beyond with Pulse.

Pulse:  How can donating blood fit into your exercise schedule?
Craig:  Most healthy and fit people can and should donate blood*. But when you donate blood you lose about 10 to 15 per cent of your oxygen-carrying capacity. If you were training for an event, but still wanted to donate, I would recommend moderating your activity for two weeks after donating.

What is a common cause of injury?
The biggest thing I see is too much, too soon. Guys 17–35 especially are usually working out for appearance vs. a specific sport. There is an urge to push, push and push, ignoring the idea that you have to work and then recover.

How much is too much?
In terms of training for cardio, there really isn’t an upper threshold. An issue with exercising long hours, however, is how well does your skeleton hold up? Your skeleton — tendons, ligaments, and joints — may not be able to handle the pounding.

What are the signals that your skeleton has been overtaxed?
The key here is the duration of pain. If a pain or soreness recovers well in a couple of days, no harm, no foul. But if you do something and there is a specific pain in a specific place that gets worse two to three days after you’ve done something, you know you have an injury.

Is stretching important in avoiding injury?
Stretching is important for increasing mobility. It makes a difference in the trunk, close to the spine — neck, shoulders, shoulder blades, hip, and pelvis. Stretching is very important for guys who pump up a lot, especially if they are using machines.

We hear a lot about the importance of drinking water when you exercise. Is there a right way to hydrate?

It is a myth that we must drink often. Science tells us adamantly that we should drink when we are thirsty and that’s it.

In fact, when we move to the endurance or ultra-endurance events, the number one leading cause of preventable death is drinking too much water; it washes out sodium. If you wash sodium out of your blood, you can suffer from exercise-associated hyponatremia. When sodium levels in the blood become excessively low, excess water enters the brain and the brain swells.

Unfortunately, there have been a few events like the Boston Marathon where people have died because they drank too much water during the event. It wasn’t the exertion; it was the brain swelling that actually killed them. It’s best to only drink when you feel thirsty.

*Final eligibility determination rests with the screening staff at the donor clinic.

For more information about donating blood or to book an appointment, please visit, download the GiveBlood mobile app or call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

Photography by Melissa Logan