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Part 3: Get Moving - Low impact exercises and how to stay active during any season of life.
Welcome back! Thanks for checking out week three of my RA story. There’s little in the way of controversial topics this week as I think we can all agree that exercise is one of the keys to a healthier life! Some people have limitations on what they can handle though, and need to make some adaptations due to symptoms they may be experiencing, an injury recovery, aging, pregnancy, etc. Those of us with joint pain have to be strategic with how we’re getting our exercise, and low impact exercise is a must.
My rheumatoid arthritis impacts the joints in my hands, wrists, hips and feet. Soccer and basketball have left me with knee issues. These ailments come and go and present themselves with varying severity each time they make an appearance. As mentioned in previous weeks, my symptoms seem to be greatly affected by the food that I eat. My diet is not the only thing that seems to have control over my RA symptoms though, how active I am and the type of exercise I do has a direct impact as well. During weeks that I manage to get physical activity in every day, I am significantly more productive, have a drastic increase in energy and have a generally better feeling better despite the usual post-workout muscle soreness. Weeks where I make excuses and don’t get regular exercise in, I’m lethargic, tired and sore, and have nothing to show for it.
The key is getting active and loosening up - then you may be able to handle more than you thought you could!
Exercising has looked drastically different for me over the past 10 years. From contact sports like soccer and basketball to yoga, I’ve tried out quite a wide range of activities to keep my physical fitness game strong. With the onset of RA, running took a backseat to swimming, although on days where my joints could tolerate it I’d still go for a jog. The key is getting active and loosening up - then you may be able to handle more than you thought you could! Remember that there’s going to be some discomfort during exercise - that’s how you grow and improve. But trust yourself and your body, if something doesn’t feel right and seems like you could be doing more harm than good, then skip it and try something else.
Even if it’s just a few 10-minute increments of activity a day, it is essential to get it in every single day. It may be a more or less intensive workout depending on if you’re in the middle of a flare-up but continuous movement and stretching is essential to helping ease symptoms and prevent other serious health conditions sometimes associated with RA.
Read on for our list of best low impact exercise options to get you back in the fitness groove. Even if something sounds totally out of your comfort zone (hello, water aerobics with the elderly), I definitely recommend giving it a try! You’ll most likely enjoy it way more than you thought you would and maybe even make some new friends in the process! Also, give it a few times before you write it off entirely. Some exercise routines are difficult to get the hang of the first time or two, but once you get used to it, you may find you’re a rockstar!
I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any sort of medical background outside of personally dealing with the conditions mentioned below. The tips, suggestions and opinions mentioned in this and subsequent posts are based on my own experiences and testimonials from others. It is not intended to be medical advice and is not for everyone. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your medications, diet or exercise routines.
Best Low-Impact Exercises for RA
Basic Stretching (don’t forget the little guys - your wrists, fingers, toes, feet/ankles need stretching too!)
*Our Favorites - These are some of our favorite activities. We’ll be sharing some of our favorite free online yoga and low-impact cardio workouts in our accountability group and during week 7’s Exercise Week at a Glance.
Find a Well-Rounded Plan
While you may have one activity listed above that you prefer, it’s important to be open-minded and try a variety of activities each week. At least 2-3 days should be dedicated to getting a higher intensity cardio workout. Even if going for a jog is too difficult on your joints, finding a way to get good cardio in is essential to heart health. Swimming is the best option to get a great cardio workout in with practically zero impact on your joints. Unfortunately swimming can be a challenge to do year round without a gym membership for those of us living in the snowy north.
If you don’t have access to a pool or lake to swim at, investing in a bike or elliptical machine may be a better option for you. Spin class is one of my favorite workouts but paying for a gym membership with a newborn seemed like throwing money out the window. People are swearing by the Peloton Bike which brings the cycling studio to you. This is at the top of my wish list right now.
In the meantime, YouTube is my go-to for free low-impact cardio workouts and yoga routines that I can chromecast straight to my tv and do right in my living room. Sometimes you find a few duds when trying new routines on there but there are definitely workouts that are worthwhile. Some of my favorites are from FitnessBlender, and SaraBethYoga. As mentioned, I’ll post links to specific workouts in our Facebook accountability group and in week 7’s post.
I aim to get a few high-intensity cardio workouts in each week and supplement the off days with yoga, stretching and walking. Find a weekly routine and stick to it, but have a few good workouts for each type of activity so you can change it up from time to time and keep it fun!
Next week (week 4) is Christmas so we’re going to be taking a break from writing and enjoy baby’s first Christmas with all of our wonderful family and friends! We’ll be back the following week with a health update and some discussion surrounding accountability. I’ve been tracking my food intake, exercise (or lack thereof some days) and symptoms, so I’ll talk through some of that and how things are going. I’ll also make a request at this point for anyone who may be interested in a free accountability group to speak up or forever hold their peace. If there’s enough interest, I’ll get that set up and ready for you to join and reap the benefits of daily work-out links to try, recipes and celebrations of members’ wins/struggles. In the weeks to come, we’ll start putting it all together with week-long meal and exercise plans with links to our favorite FREE at home workouts. We’ll be providing some tips and recipe ideas to help you get all of those great-for-you-foods listed above in a way that won’t break the bank and will reduce food waste.
Be sure to follow us on social (links below) for updates throughout the week and share with your friends who are in need of a health boost this holiday season (so, like pretty much all of us).
If you’d be interested in joining a FREE accountability group, be sure to like and follow us on Facebook so you can show your interest and join the group when the time comes!
Cheers everybody, see you next week!