Rheumatoid Arthritis and Aerobic Exercise
Arthritis-Friendly Workouts to Keep You Moving
Exercise with a friend to make it more fun. You can encourage each other to stick with it. You might find an exercise buddy at a RA support group.
When you work out with a friend or take an exercise class, don't compare yourself to anyone else. Focus on how you feel, not what the person next to you can do. Are you reaching your personal goal? Are you improving compared to what you did earlier in the week?
If you’re not feeling your best, that’s OK, too. Getting moving is a victory. Ask the instructor to show you how to modify the workout to suit you better. For example, if your knees are bothering you, your instructor may have ways to change the workout so you use your knees less.
When Your RA Acts Up
If you have a flare, you might tell yourself that exercise will only make it worse. That’s not always true, says Richardson. It may help you feel better if you’re having a mild flare.
Water exercises are especially good since they're gentle, she says.
But you know your body best. “If you have an awful day, do less,” says Wasowski. Some days the best thing is rest.
Even during flares, if you can’t do aerobic exercise, you should try simple range-of-motion exercises. For example, opening and closing your fists, or bending and straightening your knees. Talk with a physical therapist to learn about range-of-motion exercises that may help you.
Soreness vs. Pain
If you’re new to exercise, expect your muscles to be tired and sore for a day or so after your workout.
But if you feel pain in your joints, you may be doing too much or need to work on your technique. Stop that particular exercise and talk to your PT or a personal trainer to learn how to correct your form.
Richardson says listen to your body. “Pain can be your friend,” she says. “It tells you when you are overdoing it.”