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RA and Exercise: Getting Fit at Home and With Your Family

Easy moves to try at home to help fight pain.

A Family Affair

Even though she’s a personal trainer, Cawthorne doesn’t work at being active alone. She and her family make moving a family activity.

“We’ll take our dogs out hiking, with my daughter riding her mountain bike and my husband and I walking through the woods,” Cawthorne says. “You don’t have to go on a big expedition. Slow things down and take time to snap pictures and relax.”

Involving your family in your exercise program not only makes it more fun, but it helps partners and kids take part in staying healthy instead of feeling like they have to sit by and watch you struggle with your disease.

You can even involve your kids in your resistance training. One trick Winner recommends: sit on the bed, or on a pad on the floor if you can. Have your child or spouse sit across from you, and place the bottom of your feet flat against the bottom of his feet, sole to sole. Push against his feet as much as you can without causing pain. You can do the same thing with your hands, and also with your back -- for this one, sit back to back and hold your stomach taut while pushing against your partner.

Fitness instructor Shmueli practices balancing with her sons, now 13 and 8. “We’ll see who can stand on one foot the longest,” she says. “Balance is so important; when you have a strong core, it helps everything. Or I’ll lie on the floor and they’ll stand over me and try to push my legs down as I try to bring them back up.”

Experts agree: the more you move, the better you’ll feel. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take a break, though. “There are days when the pain is so severe, exercise is out of the question,” Winner says. “On those days, if I’m lying in bed, I’ll just move my legs, feet, arms, hands, neck, and fingers, so I don’t get stiff. But the important thing is to find your personal balance between rest and exercise. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about a program and goal you would like to reach. No matter how big or small your goal is, it is important to have one.”

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Reviewed on January 27, 2011

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