Don't Let Rheumatoid Arthritis Interfere With Your Resolution To Get Fit

You don't have to let your rheumatoid arthritis get in the way of your resolution to get fit. Yes, the pain caused by flare-ups can make it difficult at times to even think about starting an exercise program, but getting fit could actually help you cope better with your rheumatoid arthritis.

Exercise is Important

People once thought that painful joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis needed to be rested. But doctors have come to the conclusion that it is better for your joints if you keep moving. The following are ways that regular exercise can help you deal with your rheumatoid arthritis:

  • It can help you be more flexible.
  • Exercise can strengthen the muscles around your affected joints.
  • Working out can reduce your stress levels, which can help you fight off depression.
  • Being fit can help prevent heart disease, such as hardening of the arteries, and diabetes. Some research has shown that there is a connection between rheumatoid arthritis and these two ailments. 
  • Weight-bearing exercise can strengthen your bones. Women with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have weak bones after menopause. 
  • It can help you to lose weight. 

Talk with Your Doctor First

Before you start on a fitness regimen, you need to speak with an arthritis specialist and discuss what exercise program will be best for you. For example, your doctor may prefer that you engage in low-impact exercises, especially if your rheumatoid arthritis has caused severe damage to your hips or knees. Low impact exercises your doctor may recommend include:

  • Yoga. The poses in yoga are designed to help you be more flexible. In addition, yoga teaches practitioners about focusing on their breath, which can help a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer to deal with their pain on a daily basis. There are many different types of yoga practices, so it's important to choose one that is gentle, such as hatha. 
  • Swimming. If swimming bothers your shoulders, you can always do water aerobics or just walk laps in a shallow pool. 
  • Walking. If you decide walking is the best form of exercise for you, you should try to walk at least three to five days a week. 
  • Bicycling. This is an excellent exercise if your knees aren't affected by your rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Gym workouts. The elliptical machine offers a calorie-burning, no-impact option for exercising.  

Stick With It

On the days when your rheumatoid arthritis flares up, you may not feel like exercising. And studies show that if you are experiencing a flare-up you probably should rest for two to three days. But it's important that you start up exercising as soon as you feel well enough to do so. Otherwise, it can be too easy to let your resolution to get fit fall to the wayside. 

You Can Push Yourself Carefully

When you were first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you probably thought that you would never be able to train and compete in high-level fitness events such as triathlons and marathons. But there are numerous athletes out there with rheumatoid arthritis who haven't let the disease get in their way. For example, Shannon Teslow, 48, of Fort Collins, Colorado, finished the 2013 Boston Marathon even though she has rheumatoid arthritis. She credits medication for helping her to start running again after being sidelined by the disease. But, before, you tackle a high-level competitive sport, such as a marathon or a triathlon, it's important to, again, talk to your arthritis specialist about your particular situation and any rheumatology treatment you need.

In the past, many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers thought their active life was over once they received a diagnosis of this painful disease. However, doctors now know that being active is an important way to deal with this ailment.