While northerners typically have a harder time with arthritis in the winter, this southern girl finds summer to be the hardest season for managing RA. As temperatures rise, so does the humidity, and soon my entire body begins to feel hot, achy and puffed up. I’m not reaching for those warm, wooly gloves to make my joints feel better; I’m looking for an ice pack! So as we head into the summer months, I thought I would share a few thoughts on self-care.

Find the Right Time and Place to Exercise

Staying healthy with RA means moving every day. In the scorching heat, however, you’re not going to want to take that midday stroll around the block. In fact, everything about my exercise schedule shifts when the weather warms up.

No longer are mid-morning outdoor walks fun. By the time I am done, I am drenched in sweat and exhausted, making me want to go back to bed rather, than getting to work. A better idea is for me to take a lunch break for some mall walking, or to wait until dusk to walk outside. If you’re a gym rat, even better – they are climate controlled year ‘round!

Go For a Swim

Swimming is a great way to cool off while enjoying the summer sun, and it’s great for your joints as well. Check with your local community centers and outdoor pools for water aerobics classes, which are often only offered in the summer. They are usually held at cooler times of the day and are a great way to meet people. Just remember to use sunscreen and to go at your own pace. I actually injured myself in water aerobics trying to do too much, too soon, and not stretching before and after. Listen to your body!

Stay Hydrated

It’s easy to forget just how easily we can get dehydrated in hot weather, and that only adds to painful joints. One of the best pieces of advice I got from my Pack Health Health Advisor was to drink at least one glass of water for every cup of coffee or other beverage I consume and to make sure I am downing a solid six to eight glasses a day. Double up if you’re doing outdoor activities.

Take Advantage of Summer Fruits and Veggies

If there is any season to eat healthily, it’s the summer. Fresh berries and peaches, squash, and cucumbers are all in season and make delicious additions to any meal. Fresh is always cheaper than canned or frozen too, which will keep your budget in check. And whoever heard of celebrating the 4th of July without watermelon? Summer is truly yummy.

Chill Out

Whether you’re working or at home, take advantage of the “lazy days of summer” mindset. This is one season where the fatigue you may feel from RA can be disguised as merely taking it easy. It’s okay to go to bed early, sleep in and take naps; lounge on the patio and enjoy casual conversation with friends. If it gets too hot, bring it indoors. Make it your mission to have the best summer ever!

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