Walking really is like medicine. It eases RA pain and strengthens the muscles that support your joints. It can boost your mood, help you sleep better, and make you fit enough to keep doing the things you love to do. It lowers your blood pressure and could even help you live longer.
Use these tips to make walking more fun and part of your daily routine.
Go slowly. If you're out of shape and just getting started, be careful. If a 5-minute walk in the morning and evening is all you can manage, that's fine. At first, walk on a flat surface and avoid hills. Then build up, adding more minutes each session. Pacing yourself is so important when you have RA. If you overdo it by jumping from no walks to hour-long hikes, it could take you weeks to recover.
Have a good pair of shoes. The only crucial expense of walking is a good pair of shoes. If your shoes are worn out, or fit poorly, walking may hurt. And if walking hurts, you won't want to do it anymore. Invest in shoes that offer solid support. Thick treads may lower your risk of falling. Get your feet measured, too -- your size may have changed over the years. Be ready to replace your shoes every 500 miles.
Take breaks. If you aim to walk 30 minutes today, don't do it all at once. Rest along the way. For instance, try walking in a park or at the mall where you know there are plenty of benches. Sit down for a few minutes when you need to.
Walk with a friend. You're more likely to enjoy exercise, and stick to it, if you do it with someone else. Find a walking buddy and make a pledge to walk regularly. Your buddy could be your spouse or a neighbor -- or even your dog. If you know someone else, or something else, is counting on you, you're more likely to keep on track. It can push you to get and out and move when you might otherwise stay on the couch.
Plan a time. Try to walk at the same time every day -- maybe at lunch or after work. The more regular walking is, the more likely you'll stick to it.
Use a pedometer. Step counters make it easy to mark your progress. Seeing how many steps you took today can also inspire you to take more tomorrow. Add steps each week until you meet your goal. Ten thousand steps is a good goal -- just don't expect to get there the first time you walk! Newer wearable fit devices not only track steps, they also log stairs, calories burned, and other data and then upload it to a web site. It makes it easy to watch your progress and share it with your doctor if you like.
Watch TV while you walk. Treadmills don't have to be dull. If yours has become just a junk or coat rack, clear it off. Drag it into your TV room and watch as you walk. For incentive, set aside a few favorite shows to watch only when you walk.
Walk wherever you are. Squeeze in extra steps wherever you can. Skip the drive-through at the bank and walk inside. When you're waiting to pick up your kids after one of their activities, get out of the car and walk for a few minutes. Every step counts.