Exercise is one of the best prescriptions for good health, even for those with rheumatoid arthritis. While you may not feel like moving, in the long run it can help relieve a great deal of your pain.
Some of the benefits of being active for an RA sufferer include improved flexibility, less joint stiffness, stronger muscles (which can help to support and protect the joints), better bone density (which can help prevent fractures), a healthier heart (which is especially important for those with RA, as the disease increases the risk of heart disease), better overall well-being (as physical activity can improve your mood), more energy and an improved quality of sleep.
Exercise may be just what the doctor ordered, but of course, you should always check with your healthcare provider before getting started.
Therapeutic exercise or physical therapy
If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional before beginning an exercise program. You may be prescribed therapeutic exercises that can address the specific joints that are affected by RA.
Sometimes physical therapy is a necessary step, particularly if you’ve been inactive for a period of time or have limited joint motion. A physical therapist may recommend range of motion exercises and techniques that can help get your muscles and joints fit enough for physical activity.
Tai chi is a gentle form of exercise that’s been used since ancient times. It includes stretching and range of motion movements that are particularly helpful for those with RA. It also helps to improve balance and flexibility, and can even reduce stress by utilizing deep-breathing techniques. Less stress equals less inflammation, which in turn can help reduce the painful symptoms of RA.
Yoga can help RA sufferers in many of the same ways as Tai chi. This form of exercise can help loosen stiff joints and improve flexibility. Keep in mind that some poses may cause discomfort, so it’s important to speak to your yoga instructor about possible modifications.
Walking is an excellent, low-impact cardiovascular activity that can be done practically anywhere. Start out on a flat course, and gradually build up your strength and endurance by increasing distance or adding hill walks to your routine.
Swimming is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do, as it doesn’t put extra stress on aching joints and can even help ease joint pain and inflammation. While it’s hard to pick just one best type of workout for everyone, many physicians recommend swimming to their RA patients.
The buoyancy of the water helps lessen stress on weight-bearing joints, and swimming also gives your heart a great workout while keeping joints limber and increasing range of motion.
Remember, being sedentary can worsen your pain, so whatever you do, get up and get moving!
-The Alternative Daily