Keeping Muscles Strong Might Keep RA At Bay
I have personally struggled with working out.
I’ve hit two points where I just haven’t been able to work out. The first was when I first moved from Michigan to New York City. The move and starting a new academic program basically caused me to stop working out for four months.
I have recently hit a block again, which has basically been since my Dad died in August. I am currently going through another move, so that hasn’t helped matters either. It’s basically been a little over four months since I’ve worked out.
Because I live in the city and don’t drive, I rely on walking a lot, and that has helped me. But I can’t say I’ve done an actual workout recently. And maybe that’s part of the issue. When it comes to RA, movement is essential. Any movement. And for some of us, the everyday tasks that cause us to move sometimes have to be enough.
For those of us who can’t work out, or for those of us who have hit a plateau, rather than beat ourselves up about what we’re not doing, we should celebrate what we are doing. Movement is movement. And with RA, if you don’t use it, you tend to lose it. Muscles atrophy from under-use. It’s important to also consider combatting joints stiffening up by moving a little bit at a time.
It’s also necessary to find something that you enjoy doing. For me it was kickboxing once a week. For others, it’s yoga or water aerobics. I think the key to sticking to any workout is that you enjoy doing it, and even if it feels like work, you are still willing to go back to doing it on a schedule. Others may need more medical-ized workouts that are done under the supervision of a doctor or physical therapist.
I think it’s important to remember that it’s not just the physical manifestations of RA that can hinder a workout routine, but it’s also the emotional manifestations, of both RA and other life events, that can prevent you from feeling willing or able to work out. It’s my view that whatever you are able to do - never mind how much or how little, never mind whether it’s low or high impact - you should do it.
Another reason to work out is that extra weight puts a lot of pressure and stress on our joints. I hate when doctors say that, but it’s true. The Arthritis Foundation provides a lot of useful information about both diet and exercise.
There are also exercise videos both free online and for purchase that allow you to do workouts from the comfort of your own home.
It is important to remember that medication isn’t the only way to mitigate the effects of RA. Remember to talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe for you before starting any exercise regimen.
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Leslie wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).