Research shows that exercise can help alleviate the pain associated with arthritis. Here’s what you need to know:
While high-impact exercises can exacerbate rheumatoid arthritis, regular exercise that is focused on strength training and stretching can help maintain range of motion, protect joints, and improve daily functioning for people with RA.
Regular exercise can also benefit your mental and emotional health, which is especially important when managing a chronic condition. When beginning any exercise routine, it’s important to consult your doctor first. You may even want to schedule a session with a physical therapist, who can address specific concerns.
As you move forward, be sure to listen to your body. While exercise may at times be uncomfortable, pain is your body’s way of telling you to slow down or modify the exercise. Take it slowly and increase the difficulty and duration of your workouts incrementally. Go at your own best pace. Sustainability is the name of the game here! Be sure to warm up before working out and cool down after. Some exercise options you may want to consider are listed below:
Low-impact aerobic exercise: 150 minutes a week
These exercises improve your cardiovascular condition with minimal wear and tear on the joints, giving you the benefits of exercise without compromising your joint health. If walking, be sure to wear supportive, shock-absorbing shoes. If you are experiencing a particularly difficult flare, water activities may be your best option.
Strength training: 2 days a week
Air squats, dumbbell squats, pushups, planks, and resistance band exercises are all examples of strength and resistance training. These exercises strengthen your muscles and ultimately support your joints. Make sure you are listening to your body and not overdoing any one movement to avoid any kind of overuse injury. If you are experiencing a flare, it may be best to use lighter weights or to lower your repetition of any given exercise.
Body awareness and flexibility exercise: 2-3 times a week or short daily practice
These practices can help to calm the mind and strengthen the body while focusing on increasing or maintaining range of motion, an important component of joint health.