Exercise and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Get Moving to Ease RA
Rheumatoid arthritis is often a devastating diagnosis. For many, the condition is discovered only after experiencing pain and inhibited movement, especially with arthritis in the foot. This means a patient finds that they are unable to continue living the active lifestyle they enjoy. However, research shows that staying active can actually reduce the debilitating effects posed by rheumatoid arthritis.
While an RA patient is not likely to compete in a marathon or beat any speed records, the simple act of walking can do wonders. Walking at a comfortable pace aids in joint preservation. Keeping these joints free and moving will lead to less pain and more enjoyment of life. Whether the pace is brisk or slow, walking provides a mental boost by increasing endorphins, the feel good hormone. These hormones lead to a happier mood and better sleep at night.
Another great exercise option for patients with RA is swimming. This is an activity of low or no impact on painful joints. The feeling of weightlessness can provide immediate pain relief and the cardiovascular results of swimming lead to increased mobility, even after the swim is over. Swimming does not require any special equipment, and if the pool is heated, it can continue even during the cold winter months.
Weight training can involve the use of free weights or exercise resistance bands. These do not have to be excessively heavy or tense to gain a benefit. Never lift more than what is comfortable. Simply choose a weight that feels right or one advised by a physician. What weight training does is assist in maintaining or increasing the strength of muscles in the body. Having muscle strength goes a long way in taking some of the weight and work off the painful, inflamed joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
An often-overlooked option for exercising with RA is yoga. Yoga provides a great way to ease stress. It helps create a more in tune sense of the body. The poses and pace of yoga are just right for creating awareness of the mechanical motion of the human body. By knowing how the body moves an RA patient better understands how posture works as a natural relief from pain.
While exercise is essentially another treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, it is just as important to avoid certain activities. Unless advised by a physician, it is best to avoid exercise that causes stress on joints, such as running on concrete or asphalt. This is jarring and can cause more pain and limitation of mobility. Likewise, using heavy weights when lifting can cause muscle pain and spasm, and neither of those things will help with RA.
Even ten-minute sessions of approved exercise, done several times per day, can do wonders. To ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, it is important to get moving. An RA diagnosis is no reason to be benched. Enjoy life.