Over the last few months, I have been working with a client who suffered from such debilitating rheumatoid arthritis she could hardly move. After getting her started on an anti-inflammatory diet program, her pain was reduced that she was willing to tackle the idea of increasing her daily movement. She started with just two minutes a day on a low-impact elliptical and gradually increased her time and intensity. She is currently up to 30 minutes a day! She has lost ten pounds and feels so much better!
You can exercise your way to a brighter day too, even with Rheumatoid Arthritis! With a little determination, you can reap some of the Benefits of Exercise for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Which of the following are the most motivating reasons to move more for you?
Increased Joint Mobility: Regular exercise can help improve joint flexibility and reduce stiffness, allowing you to move with greater ease.
Stronger Muscles: Engaging in strength training exercises can strengthen the muscles around your joints, providing added support and stability.
Enhanced Joint Function: Exercise can help maintain and improve joint function by preserving the range of motion and preventing further joint damage.
Reduced Pain and Inflammation: Physical activity releases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, which can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Weight Management: Regular exercise improves blood circulation, improves metabolism, and therefore can assist in maintaining a healthy weight, which reduces the strain on your joints and minimizes arthritis symptoms.
Improved Mood and Mental Well-being: Physical activity stimulates the release of serotonin and other mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression often associated with chronic conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Better Overall Health: Exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining cardiovascular health, strengthening bones, boosting the immune system, and improving overall well-being, all of which are important for managing Rheumatoid Arthritis effectively.
When starting an exercise routine for someone with rheumatoid arthritis, it's essential to proceed gradually and consult with a healthcare professional or a physical therapist to ensure the exercises are appropriate for your specific condition.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Set Realistic Goals: Begin with small, achievable goals to prevent overexertion and frustration. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercises over time.
Low-Impact Exercises: Focus on low-impact exercises that are gentle on your joints. Walking, swimming, cycling, water aerobics, and tai chi are great options that provide cardiovascular benefits without putting excessive stress on your joints.
Range-of-Motion Exercises: Include exercises that promote joint flexibility and range of motion. Gentle stretching can help improve your flexibility and reduce joint stiffness.
Strength Training: Incorporate strength training exercises to build muscle strength and support your joints. Start with light weights or resistance bands and focus on working all major muscle groups throughout the week. Work with a physical therapist or other trained professional to learn proper form and techniques. Work up to about 10 minutes a day for strength training.
Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Prior to exercising, perform a brief warm-up to increase blood flow to your muscles and joints. Similarly, after exercising, cool down with some gentle stretches to promote flexibility and prevent stiffness.
Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals. If you experience pain or discomfort during or after exercise, modify or reduce the intensity of your activities. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” is out. You can feel some muscle burn but stop with any pain. Start slow and easy to avoid muscle soreness.
Stay Consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to reaping the benefits of exercise. Aim for regular physical activity, ideally on most days of the week. Even short sessions of exercise can be beneficial. Two minutes is a good starting point for most of my clients who experience a lot of pain. It is not overwhelming and they can increase quite steadily from there and you can too!
Use Assistive Devices: If needed, consider using assistive devices such as holding bars, braces, splints, or supportive shoes to help alleviate stress on your joints during exercise.
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your exercise sessions to stay hydrated and support joint health. This is a very important element to reducing pain and increasing activity, so please remember to drink water during exercise and throughout the day.
Remember, everyone's condition is unique, start with an exercise plan that is appropriate for your needs and capabilities.
Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting any exercise program to ensure it is appropriate for your specific condition and needs.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step!”
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