Rheumatoid Arthritis and Exercise
Should people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis exercise? Because it is painful
sometimes even to move many people with rheumatoid arthritis believe they can't
exercise. However, there are many different forms of exercise and many different
ways to accomplish the goals of exercise.
Exercise benefits rheumatoid arthritis patients in many ways. Strengthening the
muscles builds a support system for the joints which relieves the joint and lessens
pain. This strengthening of the muscles also holds the joint properly and helps
prevent joint damage when the synovium (lining in a joint) is swollen.
Exercise benefits rheumatoid arthritis sufferers because it helps to maintain a
proper weight which also relieves stress on the joints. Excess weight can build
up easily in RA patients due to prolonged immobility or the side effects of medications.
Exercise benefits all people because it aids sleep, increases energy levels, maintains
a healthy heart, decreases depression and fatigue, and helps maintain self-esteem.
People with rheumatoid arthritis suffer from depression and fatigue and self-esteem
problems even more than most.
So how do you determine what exercise is best for you? First, you should always
check with your physician before beginning any new exercise program. Your doctor
will be able to point you to physical therapists or others trained to help with
your particular kind and level of rheumatoid arthritis.
Secondly, think for yourself. You know what causes you pain. While you should expect
some discomfort or even pain as you begin a new regimen of exercise, the pain shouldn't
last more than an hour or so after finishing the exercise. If you are experiencing
a flare in a particular joint adjust your exercise so that you won't damage the
joint while it is swollen.
Consider various forms of exercise. If you have been immobile for a while or even
walking hurts. Start with isometric exercises to strengthen your muscles without
using your joints. As you build strength you can add weight-bearing exercises using
light dumbbells or elastic bands. Start with a few repetitions and build up gradually
as your strength builds.
Swimming and resistance exercises in water are great ways to build muscle strength
while sparing the joints. As you are able begin weight bearing exercises so that
you will build bone strength as well. Osteoporosis is common to people with rheumatoid
arthritis due largely to side effects from the medications. Even jogging is good
for the bones if your lower body joints are not swollen or already damaged. If jogging
isn't an option look for a cushioned treadmill or even better an elliptical trainer
(or cross trainer). This machine offers more weight bearing exercise than a bicycle
because you stand as you exercise, but it uses a pedaling motion which is low impact.
Bicycling is a fun exercise that is relatively safe if your knees can handle it.
You can view more scenery than just walking along and can "coast" to rest when you
need a break.
Be sure to check with your doctor first and then find an exercise that is fun! It
will be easier to keep at it if you are enjoying what you are doing. Find a friend
to exercise with you or buy a stationary bike or machine you can use at home while
you watch television. But work those muscles and see how much better you will feel!