Working It Out: Exercise and RA

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • When I first got sick, working out was a huge struggle.  If I got one actual workout a week in, I was happy.  And because my diet was also limited during that time, I did not really need to be working out for weight loss purposes.  But as my illnesses have become more controlled, and given other circumstances in my life, I have begun working out more.


    I truly wish I could still just work out one day a week to maintain, but I can't.


    My now ex-boyfriend and I had quite different eating habits, and I found my body changing in ways that I didn't like. So I explored some options, and did several personal training sessions.  More than anything, this experience showed me that I needed to kick things up a notch.

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    So now my exercise routine consists of a walk aerobics DVD that I do.  It has three different workouts; a one mile, two mile, and three mile walk.  So I do each of those once a week and that seems to keep me where I want to be; along with the fact that I don't have a car, so I either walk or take the bus. 


    The workouts also involve moving your arms in various ways.  This system works for me, although I am often in pain while working out. 


    Personal training has been an adventure.  I attempted to do some personal training the summer after I was diagnosed, but the person I approached said they didn't feel comfortable taking me on because they didn't know enough about my illnesses.


    The personal training that I actually completed was okay, but I think the personal trainer learned more from me than I did from her.  Plus, I have found that most people won't accept the comment at face value that your doctor approves you to do anything you feel able to do.  So I was required, however begrudgingly, to obtain written permission from my doctor, okaying me for physical activity of any kind.


    I am kind of paranoid about going to the gym to workout, because there are so many germs floating around.  That's why I've found a DVD that I love and I do that.  And I really do push myself to follow through on the three day a week thing, unless of course, I end up in a flare or hospitalized.  Then I don't push it.


    RA makes it difficult, because I think we tend to try and not over-use the parts of our bodies most affected.  The problem with this is that it just breeds additional stiffness in joints.  Like if I tried to favor my right hip in that way - which is the part of my body affected the most by my RA currently - I would never get off the couch.  On the other hand, though, there is the reality that over-using joints in certain ways can cause more damage.   


    So you have to do what works for you. 


    As Michigan approaches spring, which should be read as less than 40 degrees and the potential for snow, but finally some sunshine, it is tempting to take my workouts outside.  The pavement, I find, however, can be very unforgiving. 


    So during the winter months and early spring, I rely on my DVD workouts to get me through.  Once it gets warmer, I may try and switch things up a bit. 


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    What do you do to keep your self in shape, while working around the constraints of your RA? 

Published On: March 28, 2011