Sports Medicine
A Crucial Period
Good Pain, Bad Pain
On Your Knees
Secondary Injuries
Imaging Technology
What's Sciatica?
The Female Athlete
Putting Your Feet First
Itis Schmitis
Too Much, Too Soon
Under the Influence
What's Goin' On?
Think Inches, Not Pounds
Preventing Vaginitis
That Painful Pull
Athlete's Heart
Exercise & Arthritis
Chilled to the Bone
Measuring Body Fat
Exercise and Your Breasts
Choosing a Sports Doctor
Lean on Me (Shoulder)
Exercise & Anemia
Exercise Abuse
Pelvis Sighting
Hand Aid
It's All in the Wrist
Back in Action
Altitude Adjustment
Tennis Elbow, Anyone?
Exercising in the Heat
Agony of the Feet
Restless Legs
Night Time Cramps
Birth Control Concerns
No Periods, No Babies?
Post Partum Prescription
Weight Loss Mystery
Undesirable Cooldown
To Brew Or Not To Brew
Fitness After Baby
Biking and Back Pain
Swimmer's Shoulder
A Hidden Athlete
Avoiding Osteoporosis
Drug Testing
Maximum Heart Rate
Headway Against Headaches
Torn Rotator Cuff
Fat Figures
Bloody Urine
Sag Story
Lackluster Leg
Bothersome Bulge
Gaining in Years
Taking It On the Shin
Aching Ankles
Hoop Help
Tender Toes
Meals For Muscle
Growing Pains
Hot Tips
High Altitude PMS
Personal Bests
Air Pollution
Ankle Blues
Heartbreak Heel
Yeast Relief

Exercise and Anemia


Iron is stored in the bone marrow prior to being used to synthesize new red blood cells. A blood test called ferritin indirectly measures the amount of iron stored in the marrow and is commonly used to aid in anemia diagnosis. A value of 30 mg per liter is normal for American women. Values between 12 and 20 are marginal iron stores, and a value of 12 or less indicates a lack of iron stores.

You lose your iron stores before you become anemic. Current research indicates no impairment of performance in athletes who lack iron stores but are not yet anemic. Increasing iron stores will not boost your athletic performance (unless you are anemic from iron deficiency), but will reduce your chances of becoming anemic in the future.

Experts estimate that between 20 and 65 percent of young American women are iron deficient and up to 20 percent are frankly anemic. Many factors contribute to your risk of becoming anemic. They include a diet low in iron, restricted calorie intake, eating disorders, heavy menstrual flow pregnancy and lactation, and blood donations. Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract from a variety of causes, including the excessive use of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can also cause anemia.

Symptoms of anemia vary from person to person and correlate to some degree with the severity of the anemia. Most mild anemias cause no symptoms, although an athlete may notice more fatigue during workouts, a feeling of burning or heaviness in the legs, a difficulty in doing speed work and nausea after a workout. If the anemia is severe (hemoglobin below 9) you may be lightheaded upon standing, fatigued during daily activity and have headaches.

To prevent anemia, be sure that you meet your iron needs every day If you think you are at risk for anemia, see your physician for a screening blood count and advice on proper supplement therapy

Pumping iron into your diet.

Here are some tips for increasing the amount of iron you consume.

  • Eat iron-rich foods with foods rich in vitamin C to aid in absorbing the iron.
  • Cook in cast iron pots. Some of the iron from the pot will leach into the food.
  • Use grain products (cereals, breads, pasta) that have been enriched with iron.
  • Avoid drinking black tea with iron-rich foods. The tannic acid in tea reduces the absorption of iron.

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About the authors: Carol L. Otis, M.D., is Chief Medical Advisor to the Sanex WTA and UCLA student health physician. Roger Goldingay is a former professional soccer player. They are married and the co-authors of The Athletic Woman's Survival Guide.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Billie Jean King

Comments by Barb Harris
Editor in Chief,
Shape Magazine

General Health
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