If you live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you understand the toll it takes on your body. Whether it’s that ache you wake up to each morning or that periodic, painful flare, this autoimmune disease is a constant struggle as your body’s immune system attacks its own joints.
Exercising for Arthritis?!
It seems counter-intuitive to exercise when you have rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s actually a key part of treating RA. If you’re balking at this information, don’t worry. This article will show you how to exercise comfortably with minimal pain.
However, do check in with your doctor before you start working out to make sure it is safe for you to do so, and make sure you’re keeping up with your current treatment, such as taking the required medications. If prescription drug costs are additional stress on your joints, you can find cheaper medications through Canadian pharmacy referral services online. Here, you can access medications like Voltaren (diclofenac) from licensed pharmacies abroad.
Always Warm up, Stretch, and Cool Down
Warming up, stretching, and cooling down are important aspects of working out for anyone, but it may be especially important for folks with RA.
Warming up with light movements before a workout warms your muscles and prevents injury and stiff joints the following day. Stretching also helps reduce joint stiffness. Make sure you stretch your hamstring in particular.
Cooling down with deep breathing and stretching, on the other hand, will get your heart rate and breathing back down to normal in a safe way.
Pay Attention to Form
People with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis are at higher risk of injury during their workouts. So, if you have RA, it may be worth investing in a class or following a qualified trainer, at least in the beginning stages of your workout journey.
When exercising solo, it helps to watch yourself in the mirror. You may be using the bad form without knowing it!
Choose Low-Impact Activities
You can reap plenty of health benefits from different methods of exercise like swimming and bike-riding without the risk of hurting your joints. High-impact activities that involve running, jumping with both feet, and squatting with weights can cause injury.
Yes, You can do Resistance Training. Just Be Careful.
Weight-lifting is possible for people with RA! You just have to start slow. Women should start with 2 to 3-pound dumbbells and men should start with 5 to 8-pound dumbbells. If you can’t do 12 reps with a certain weight, it’s too heavy for you and you need to work up to it. If you can do 12 reps without feeling tired, it’s too light for you.
When you’re lifting weights, do so slowly — about 4 seconds of extension and 4 seconds of contraction. Avoid fully extending your knees and elbows or “locking.”
Listen To Your Body
Exercise isn’t easy, and even people with healthy joints will feel pain from time to time. But when does pain become dangerous?
If you experience mild to moderate pain, do some range-of-motion exercises. Then, follow that up with a low-impact activity like walking. Even if they may start off as sore, joint pain can decrease after just a little movement.
If you have moderate to severe joint pain right before you work out, you may need to rest that area of the body. If the pain is severe and happens during exercise, stop.
If on occasion, you experience moderate to severe joint pain the day after you work out, you are probably exercising too intensely. Take the day off or do a more relaxing workout.
Set Realistic Goals
When setting fitness goals, remember the popular acronym S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Don’t make vague goals like “I want to get fit this year.” Instead, make specific goals like “I want to lose a pound this month by running.” Then, set a low, easily-attainable bar for yourself at first, like running 5 minutes a day, before slowly adding more minutes.
Setting realistic goals will make your workout seem easier and less of a daunting task. You will likely enjoy it more too!
Finally, remember to congratulate yourself on exercising with rheumatoid arthritis! Even exercising with healthy joints is not easy, and as a person with RA, you have an extra hurdle to get over. So pat yourself on the back!
The research used in this article and more information can be found at the Arthritis Foundation’s website.