I hope that you will watch the video that displays some examples of what I do for exercise. But I also figured that I would outline my exercise routine in writing.*
I learned a long time ago, before I got sick, that I am not a runner. So over the years, especially since I got sick, I have had to come up with something that works for me exercise wise. Other considerations for me include not exercising outside when it is cold, and the potential spread of germs at the gym.
My workout routine consists of the following:
I do kickboxing. Right now I go every other week. When I first started, I was going every week. But if I’ve had a flare, injury, medication change, or other complications, I have had to go according to when I was able.
My kickboxing instructor has been really accommodating in when I can go and can’t go, and I can let him know the day of if I am not able to. He has also been very accommodating in terms of how strenuous each kickboxing session is, and really depends on me to voice what I can and cannot do in a given session.
Not everyone is willing or able to be that flexible, but that is one of the chief things that have worked for me in terms of kickboxing. The ability to be flexible, both literally and figuratively, is an important part of exercising with RA.
Each kickboxing session is an hour long. My kickboxing is done at the Ann Arbor College of Martial Arts, if you are in the area or are interested in learning more.
I opted to do one-on-one training rather than a class. I am somewhat self-conscious about my RA, and didn’t want to be in a class where people older than me could kick their legs higher than me or anything like that.
I also do a walk aerobics DVD. The walk aerobics DVD I do is Walk Away The Pounds and is led by Leslie Sansone. The DVD I have includes a one-mile, two-mile, and three-mile walk. I do the two-mile once a week and the three-mile once a week. On weeks when I am alternating with no kickboxing, I do the two-mile twice a week and the three-mile once a week.
I find that this walk is fairly low-impact, and I can adapt it if I need less of a workout. The video includes both leg and arm movements. It also includes the use of weights. I opt not to use the weights because I often use weights in kickboxing, and I would rather do that supervised so I don’t risk injuring myself.
I also do nightly crunches. The combination that I do has been figured out over the years. I do 50 standard crunches, 20 elevated leg crunches, 25 side-to-side crunches, and five bridges.
While I try to be disciplined, the crunches are usually the first thing that go, conserving my energy to try and make sure I get my other workouts in when I am not feeling well.
Before I started doing kickboxing, I attempted to do several personal training sessions through my school. They were pretty terrible. They were more expensive than kickboxing and I felt were of little practical use. Before that, I attempted to do personal training through community education, but the instructor was unfamiliar with my illnesses and didn’t feel comfortable training me, despite my claiming I could set my own limitations.
While these experiences were discouraging, they made me even more open to trying other things, and made me bent on finding something that would work for me, with someone who was willing to work for me.
I think the key is to find people or activities that will allow you modify exercise, according to your given activity level, without making you feel bad. My kickboxing instructor is really good at not allowing me to wuss out when things get tough, but that I physically can do, while making sure that I don’t do anything that could negatively impact my joints.
I know a lot of people say that swimming is an ideal form of exercise for people with RA, but I am not really a pool person, so all of my activities take place on dry land. Yoga is also a typical suggestion. I’ve tried yoga a few times, and while it did make me feel better, I need something with more variety. Or it might be that I’m just too high maintenance for yoga.
It’s important to note that it is well-documented that the best way to avoid disability from RA is to be mobile and that exercise, a key in managing the progression of RA, increasing mobility, and decreasing pain (Ehrlich-Jones, et al. 2011; Law, et al. 2010).
According to one article, “Exercise is now considered an important component in the management of RA, with known physiological and psychosocial advantages for the patient” (Law, et al. 2010: 2444). This same articles suggested that, despite this, “RA patients are less active than the general population…and greater medical costs are associated with this inactivity…” (Law, et al. 2010).
Despite many doctors pushing RA patients to exercise, it would appear that most practitioners have inadequate knowledge of exercise programs (Law, et al. 2010). As the article suggests, I have created my exercise routine all on my own. I have figured out what works for me and how I can modify during less active phases. While my rheumatologist has suggested that I be as active as possible, he has not provided any specific guidance on this matter. This lack of guidance causes some patients to be less active than others.
Whether you are just beginning an exercise routine or looking to change things up in an already established routine, there is a lot of information about exercise, staying active, and RA, provided on the Arthritis Foundation’s website. That would be a good place to start if you are concerned about activities that could potentially cause joint damage.
* To be clear, this is what I do personally. It might not be right for you. Always check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to do certain/specific activities.
Ehrlich-Jones, Linda, Jungwha Lee, Pamela Semanik, Cheryl Cox, Dorothy Dunlop, and Rowland W. Chang. 2011. “Relationship Between Beliefs, Motivation, and Worries About Physical Activity Participation in Persons with Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Arthritis Care & Research 63 (12): 1700-1705.
Law, Rebeeca, Jane, Anne Breslin, Emily J. Oliver, Lauren Mawn, David A. Markland, Peter Maddison, and Jeanette M. Thom. 2010. “Perceptions of the Effects of Exercise on Joint Health in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients”. Rheumatology 49: 2444-2451.
Published On: May 15, 2013