Once you’re diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s likely that you will start doing physiotherapy sessions to keep you mobile. As a child I remember how I never looked forward to physiotherapy time. It was such a painful process! My joints were swollen and stiff and the last thing I wanted to do was move them. As an adult, I finally understand how important it is to exercise when we have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Since our joints are experiencing inflammation, we need to strengthen our muscles and bones so that they can help us out when our joints aren’t doing too well. Exercise is also important to reduce deformity and fusion in joints. Exercising when you’re flaring sure isn’t easy, so on those tough days I just do what I can. If I muster up the motivation to drag myself to the pool on these days, I have found find that swimming helps my joints to loosen up.
Each of us has been affected by (J)RA differently, so it would be best to go to a physiotherapist and ask for assistance in developing an exercise routine which will be tailored to our specific body. If our joints are damaged, certain exercises may be too stressful for them (and can cause further damage!). However, I have included some links to exercises you can try at the bottom of this post if you need some inspiration. If you are going to attempt classes, inform your instructor about your (J)RA and do what you can manage.
Now, apparently we’re supposed to be doing our exercises on a daily basis :shock:. But as you all know, when you have a lifetime of JRA, taking an hour or two to do physiotherapy doesn’t always happen every day. Not when young ladies have exams to study for, jobs to do, dates to go on or meals to cook (oh, and RA to manage too)! But we must at least try, right? The more we incorporate movement into our routines, the better for us.
Here are some ideas to keep mobile:
1. Exercise while watching television or listening to music. Try to do the exercises you have learned at physiotherapy while you’re watching your favourite television shows. Instead of lying on the couch, lie on the floor and do some stretches so you don’t get too stiff staying in one position.
2. Use your travel time! If you commute using the bus or subway (or have to take a 6-hour flight), use the time to do some wrist and finger exercises. Stretch from time to time to reduce stiffness.
3. Swimming and water exercises. Try to swim at the local pool when you get a free evening. If you’re in school, then make use of the pool there. Hey, you might meet some nice guys and girls while you’re there, which will probably motivate you to keep going. I have to say that swimming helps my stiffness a lot and is my favourite physical activity to do. Also, we don’t put a lot of pressure on our joints when we swim, so for me it’s less painful than doing regular floor exercises. In this article from HealthCentral.com, Christine Miller explores the benefits of swimming and doing water exercises with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
4. Have fun at the beach. If you’re near a beach, turn it into a family outing and get some exercise at the same time. Try doing sports (frisbee, running, football, cricket, volleyball etc.) or take a dip in the water to help loosen your joints. If you’re feeling low-energy that day, try sitting on the sand and building sand castles with your friends and loved ones – it’s a great way to get those wrists and finger joints moving.
5. Rub-a-dub-dub…exercise in the tub. Fill up the bathtub with warm water and do your exercises in there. Add bubble bath to make it more exciting and fun.
7. Work out with the kiddies. If you have kids, do the moves to the Hokey Pokey, If you’re happy and you know it and Head and shoulders with them. Even if you don’t have kids, you can still try this one – just be careful who sees you. 😉
8. Go out and dance! Dress up and go out dancing with your friends. There is no pressure here: you get to move at your own pace, have some fun with your friends and get some exercise – what’s better than that?
9. Boy-band dance moves, RA style. If you’re in my age-group then I have no doubt that you have already tried dancing to the Backstreet Boys’ Everybody music video or *NSYNC’s Bye Bye Bye ;). So turn up the music with your friends and show off those choreographed dance moves. 😉
10. Aerobics classes. I really enjoy doing aerobics and find it to be a good way to keep my body mobile. If you cannot do every single move, just do what you can.
11. Take a dance class. When I was younger I did modern dancing and it really helped me because there was a lot of stretching involved. But there are so many types of dance to choose from: ballroom, hip-hop, bhangra, jazz, latin etc. Take your pick!
12. Yoga. Yoga and stretching can be very beneficial for our stiff bodies, although I admit I cannot do every yoga position! Check out this WebMD video which shows some yoga poses you can try with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
13. Zumba classes. Zumba seems to be a huge craze right now. In college I tried Zumba classes and absolutely loved them! You’re pretty much dancing while exercising. It can be a bit intense, so be careful if your joints are very damaged. Do what you can and move at a pace that suits you.
14. Take a walk around your neighbourhood. If all these classes seem too high-energy for you, then a leisurely walk to your park may be just the thing you need to clear your head after a busy day.
15. Learn the dance moves from the Gangnam Style video. Talk about an intense work out!
If you have (J)RA, then I know you have had a few hundred people lecture you on doing exercises by now. But you know what? I’ve found that it genuinely helps me feel better to keep my body active. I know that on some days just walking is a huge task, so do whatever you can. I always think a little exercise a day is better than none at all. Move at your own pace – you know your body best. I’ve included some links to suggested RA exercises below in case you are feeling extra ambitious today. 😉
-Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis
-Joint-friendly fitness routines (picture slide show)
-Rheumatoid Arthritis and exercise
Readers, what is your favourite way to keep mobile with Rheumatoid Arthritis? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments so we can all learn together.