Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease prevalent among older adults. It is an autoimmune disease that impacts the joints by causing inflammation. Usually, your immune system protects your body from disease. But for people with rheumatoid arthritis, their body does the exact opposite.
In people with arthritis, the immune system becomes triggered and begins attacking health cells resulting in inflammation in the affected joints. In severe cases, the immune system attacks internal organs in addition to tissue and joints.
RA arthritis symptoms include tender and swollen joints and joint stiffness. This can cause physical activity, such as aerobic exercise, to be a painful experience. However, contrary to the belief, moderate exercise is actually beneficial to arthritis pain. It helps to treat and manage rheumatoid arthritis.
Different Types of Arthritis Exercise
When you’re in pain, exercise is one of the last things on your mind. However, if possible, you should aim for 150 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of more intense activity every week. Activity can vary but should be a combination of three types of exercise: conditioning, strengthening, and stretching.
Conditioning, also known as cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, are specific exercises that help to improve your cardiovascular health. In addition to your heart, conditioning exercises target your entire body to help improve your overall health and fitness. Many refer to conditioning as cardio.
Examples of conditioning exercises include walking, cycling, and water aerobics. During these exercises, you increase your breathing and heart rate, which works to strengthen your heart and lungs. Some of these exercises can be hard on your joints if you have rheumatoid arthritis, but there are alternatives. For example, using an elliptical machine or stationary bike can help to reduce the impact and pressure on your joints compared to walking/running on a treadmill or cycling on uneven pavement.
Many people with rheumatoid arthritis often experience muscle weakness, making everyday activities challenging. That’s where strengthening comes into play. Strengthening exercises are precisely what it sounds like, exercises that help to strengthen muscles and joints. These types of exercises are crucial for joint support and building muscle strength.
Resistance training is an excellent option for people with rheumatoid arthritis. It helps to build muscle strength by pushing or pulling with some sort of resistance. Squats, push-ups against the wall, and lunges are examples of training that use your own body weight to provide resistance. Another inexpensive option is to use resistance bands.
A physical therapist can help you create a workout plan that fits your needs and limitations. You should aim to do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.
Stretching is essential for everyone to include in their daily workout routine. However, for those with rheumatoid arthritis, range of motion exercises and stretching are necessary to reduce pain and alleviate joint stiffness. Stretching helps to get the blood flowing and joint fluids moving. This increases flexibility and reduces the risk of injury.
When stretching, try to move every joint through its full range of motion and hold for at least 10 seconds. Tai chi and yoga are great gentle exercise forms that focus on stretching all the joints and muscles. Without stretching, your muscles can shorten and become tight, creating stiffness.
Listen to Your Body
Exercising with arthritis may feel uncomfortable, but you should never be in pain. You should always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. You could end up doing more harm than good. Always consult with your provider before starting any new physical activity or arthritis exercise.
Not listening to your body or pushing yourself too much could result in harm and damage to your body. It could even worsen your rheumatoid arthritis. Even if you’re unable to do a full-blown exercise workout, just a little physical activity is better than nothing. Start off slow and gradually work yourself up to longer and more challenging workouts.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you can’t do something at first, set a goal and work toward it. It’s not a competition. Just continue to work toward less pain and Better Health.