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Make an Exercise Plan for RA

What can you do to feel better when you're stiff, sore, and tired? Give exercise a try. It may not sound logical, but a workout can boost your energy and make you more flexible. Once you take the first steps, you'll be on your way to reaping the benefits. You, and your joints, will be glad you did.

What Exercise Can Do for You

Activity helps reduce the swelling and pain in your joints and strengthens your muscles. Exercise, especially the weight-bearing kind, like walking, makes your bones stronger and helps prevent osteoporosis. Many women get weaker bones after menopause, but it's more common for those who have RA and take steroids to treat inflammation.

Aerobic exercise, the kind that makes your heart pump faster, can help you control your weight. It also helps protect against heart disease, another condition that you're more likely to get if you have RA.

Moving around helps you sleep better too. That helps you manage the stress and depression that can come with rheumatoid arthritis.

Get Motivated

You know that you should exercise, but what makes you get up and do it? Try these tips for success:

  • Start slowly.
  • Set a goal: Maybe you want to lose a few pounds, get in better shape for a trip, or walk a 5K.
  • Set small targets that point you to your larger goal, and chart your progress.
  • Reward yourself when you meet each milestone.

The First Steps

Get off to a good start with this strategy:

Talk to your doctor. Ask him what kind of exercise is best for you. He'll let you know if there are some activities you should skip. For instance, if you're worried about inflammation in your shoulder, you may want to bike or walk instead of swimming.

Keep it real. If you don't know where to begin or feel you don't have much time to exercise, start with 5 minutes. The next day, try to do a minute more, and so on. But if you're raring to go, be careful not to overdo it at first. It's less important where you start than where you end up.

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