How to Make Your Walks Help Your RA

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on November 02, 2022
3 min read

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 help you live longer, too.

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, take it easy. A 5-minute walk in the morning and another in the evening might be all you can manage, and that's fine. At first, walk on a flat surface and avoid hills. Then build up, adding more minutes each session. It’s so important to pace yourself 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. This is the only crucial expense of walking. If your shoes are worn out or they fit poorly, walking won’t feel good, and you won't want to do it anymore. Invest in a pair that offers solid support. Thick treads may help you avoid falls. Get your feet measured, too, because your size may have changed over the years. 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, walk 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.

Stroll 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 promise to walk regularly. Your buddy could be your partner or a neighbor -- or even your dog. If you know another person or a pet 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. You’ll be more likely to stick with 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. Walk more each week until you meet your goal. Ten thousand steps is a good target. Just give yourself time to reach it! 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. They make it easy to watch your progress and share it with your doctor if you like.

Watch TV while you walk. At home or at the gym, you can walk on a treadmill while your favorite show is on. 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 wait to pick up your kids after one of their activities, get out of the car and walk for a few minutes. Every step counts.