What can you do to feel better when you're stiff, sore, and tired? How about a workout? It might not make sense, but it really is good for you.
Exercise is vital to your health even if you don’t have with RA, but it’s likely to make you feel better than worse if you do. It may take a leap of faith to believe that when you're in pain, but it only takes small steps to start feeling the benefits.
Rheumatoid arthritis shouldn't keep you from going out and doing the things you've always enjoyed. Whether it's shopping, eating out with friends, or going to a movie, you can do it. You may just need to tweak your plans and do a little more to prepare.
Activity can help lower joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, and increase your muscle strength and flexibility. It also can boost your energy. Weight-bearing exercise like walking also strengthens your bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. All women are prone to weaker bones after menopause, but it’s more common among 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 already have RA. Finally, regular exercise helps you sleep better so you can manage the stress and depression that can come with RA.
You know that you should exercise, but what makes you get up and do it?
Here are some tips for success:
Set a goal: Maybe you want to lose a few pounds, get in better shape for a trip, or walk a 5K.
Once you have your big goal, set small targets along the way and chart your progress.
Reward yourself when you meet each goal.
The First Steps
These strategies will help you get off to a good start:
Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise might be best for you based on your RA, your ability to move, and other conditions you might have. If you're worried about shoulder joint inflammation, for example, 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. On the other hand, if you're raring to go, be careful not to overdo it in the beginning. It's less important where you start than where you end up.