Having rheumatoid arthritis is not an excuse to escape working out because regular exercise can help keep your muscles and joints strong. In fact, it can improve your heart health and equip you to better deal with complications that may crop up.
Anyone with rheumatoid arthritis needs regular exercise to derive a lot of health benefits including:
- More energy
- Less pain
- Better bone health
- Improved physical function and performance
- Improved quality of life
- More joint stability
Exercises that are easy on the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis
As a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, here are the perfect exercises for your joints:
Stretching your muscles can help ease joint stiffness and widen your range of motion. The best time for gentle stretching or yoga is morning. You can equally do it any time before exercise. Here are some of the best stretches:
- Finger/wrist stretch: Bend your fingers forward, and then backward, holding each stretch for 10-20 seconds each time. Do the same to your hand to stretch the muscles of your wrist.
- Leg/hamstring stretch: While you are standing, lean forward as far as you can comfortably reach toward your toes. Be sure to bend your knee a bit to keep your legs soft, holding it for 10-20 seconds.
- Neck stretches: Gently drop your head forward and then slowly roll it toward one shoulder and back towards the second.
- Cross-body arm stretch: Put your arm across the front of your body and hold it for 10-20 seconds, and then switch to the second arm. Then reach up to the sky with one arm, followed by the second, tilting each arm slightly over your head to stretch your shoulder.
2. Yoga poses
- Extend leg balance: While you are standing, put your weight on one foot. Use a table or chair for support and lift your leg slowly, holding it with one leg on the outside of the knee. To get an even better stretch, rotate your leg out to the side from the same position and hold.
- Cobra: Lie on the floor facing down, keeping your toe pointed away from you. Press your palm against the floor and raise your upper body slowly, while keeping your elbow close to your side.
- Seated spinal twist: Get on a chair and sit up tall. Put your hand on the outside of your opposite thigh, twist gently in the direction of tour arm and hold. Repeat the same on the other side.
3. Exercises for endurance
Just like your quads and biceps, your heart muscle needs a workout. Involving in aerobic exercises will raise your breathing and heart rates. The best exercises are those that are easy on your joint, yet get your blood pumping. Here are some of them:
- Cycling: Cycling on a stationary bike eliminates your risk of a fall. Remember to start slowly if you are just starting and go faster as you get better.
- Walking: One of the easiest ways to get into the exercise groove is daily walking. If you are new to regular exercise, you need to start with slow and short strolls. Then increase the distance and walk faster as you get stronger. Before you start and after you finish, stretch. Remember to also drink plenty of water.
- Swimming: If you have rheumatoid arthritis, water workouts are excellent for you because they take your weight off your joints. These workouts will also raise your heart rate. Water can also make you stronger because it acts as a resistance against your muscles. You can join a water aerobics class or swim laps.
4. Strength exercises
Rheumatoid arthritis takes away muscle mass slowly. That is why you need to work out your muscles to keep them strong.
Isometric exercises are perfect for you if you have swollen joints because they will hold your muscles in one place. Isometric exercises also don’t make you move joints. If your joints are not swollen, you can build your muscles with isotonic exercises.
Before you start any strength training, talk to your doctor. Here are some strength exercises:
- Abdominal contractions: If you want to do this isometric exercise, just lie on your back and then put your hand on your stomach muscles. Lift your head and hold it. Take this exercise to the next level by squeezing the muscles that lifted your head without picking it up.
- Seated knee lift: While a resistant band is over your legs in a seated position, lift one leg slowly and then switch sides.
- Bicep lifts: Sit in a chair and rest your arms on your thigh and hold light weights in your hands. Raise them towards your shoulders while bending at your elbow.
- Palm press: This is another isometric exercise. Hold your hands to face each other. Let one hand have fingertips up and the other has fingertips down. Press your palm together and hold.
The bottom line
RA (rheumatoid arthritis) should not be an excuse for not exercising. In fact, exercises are the only way to keep you healthy and kicking. Start slowly and you will get better as you continue to exercise.