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Health Tip: Don’t Exercise Before Blood Tests

March 13, 2012 · 26 comments

in Commentary, Health & Fitness

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor.  I am only sharing my own experience, and also some information that I found while researching elevated white blood cell counts.  

Once a year, many people go to the doctor’s office for a physical.  Usually, when the physical is set up, the patient is told not to eat before the appointment because the doctor will order blood work that requires fasting.

But has anyone ever told you not to exercise?

I know I haven’t been told, and but I found out on my own that you should not.

Did You Know Exercise Can Affect Blood Counts?

My physical was scheduled for 11:00 a.m.  I had physical therapy that day, but didn’t think twice about going to PT before my doctor’s appointment.  My typical physical therapy session involves at least 60 minutes of pretty heavy exercising, including the elliptical, light jogging, a lot of strength training, and some other cardio exercises.  In other words, it isn’t like a stroll in the park.  I went straight from therapy to my appointment, and proceeded to have my exam and blood work done.

The next day, I picked up my blood test results, and two variables were high that have never been elevated before- my white blood cell count (WBC) was 11.8  and my neutrophil count was 9.6.  The doctor’s office called and said it was probably just a transient event, but the doctor wanted me retested in two weeks.

Great, now I had to worry about what raised my WBC count.  I didn’t feel sick at all, so I didn’t know what caused the increase.

So, I turned to the internet, which can make your head spin, but also provide some good information.

In my reading, I came across study after study that showed the affects of exercise on white blood cell counts, specifically neutrophils.  Ironically, exercise can also skew results of cholesterol and  glucose tests.  I know my doctor is  adamant the patient does not eat at least 12 hours before a cholesterol test, but I know I personally had never been warned not to exercise.  It makes total sense though, but I had never thought about it before.

Results From the Retest:

After two weeks, I had my blood test redone.  I made sure I did not do any exercise the previous 24 hours.  My results came back with a WBC of 8.6 and Neutrophils of 5.2, both completely normal.   Of course, I will never know if the reason the counts were elevated in the first place was solely attributed to exercise.  However, in the future, I think I will just be on the safe side and make sure I take it easy before I have any blood work done.  As a matter of fact, it is recommended that to get the most accurate blood test results, patients should not exercise for 24 hours before a blood draw.   So, take that advice as an excuse to take a day off and relax before your next physical appointment.


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