Many people reached out to me after my post a few weeks ago, so I wanted to share some tips with you.
If you missed my post about Rheumatoid Arthritis, you can catch up here. After almost 20 years of trial and error, I have some great fitness tips on staying in shape with RA, or anything that may hinder you from normal physical activity. As a scientist, I am always researching and experimenting things, even when it comes to health. As much as I’d love to hit it hard in the gym or go for a long run, I know that isn’t possible. However, I still want to be in shape for my overall health. So, these are my best proven tips for doing just that! I have many people ask me in person what I do to stay in shape, they assume I run all the time and hit the weights daily, but that is far from the truth 🙂
Now, keep in mind these are only part of the bigger picture when it comes to living with a disease. Nutrition is the other key part which I will be doing a post on next. Update: Nutritional Tips Post can be found here!
Everyday! Without fail! Yoga is one of my favorite activities, but I can’t do most of the moves with bad swollen elbows and knees. For the last few years, flexibility has been a goal of mine. In the mornings, I do basic stretching focusing on my legs, arms, and spine. I do all the stretches for 20 second holds, two times each. Just long and slow movements. When I first started this, I was so stiff. I could barely reach my toes! I started doing this every morning and night, and noticed results after about a month.
Benefit: The benefit to staying as limber as possible is to eliminate the chance of injury. Last week, I slipped in the kitchen and practically did the splits when I fell. I thought for sure I pulled a muscle or twisted my ankle, but I got up just fine! My legs are so limber now, I avoided injury! Staying loose is also beneficial for those arthritic joints to get them in motion. In the mornings, I am incredibly stiff for about an hour, but stretching first thing gets things moving!
As often as you can! At your own pace too. Some days, I can walk about five minutes, and the pain is too intense. Other days, I can walk 30 minutes no problem. The key is to walk a little whenever you can. My biggest affliction over the years has been RA in the knees, so walking can sometimes be the hardest task. But that’s okay! Start out slow, and if you hurt too bad to walk that day, no problem. Just do it anytime you have the ability and just getting those endorphins going can make a difference. Now that it’s summer, the best place to walk is THE POOL! Walking in the pool is the easiest way and takes away pressure on your weight baring joints. It is my favorite place to exercise!
Benefit: Having physical limitations often means you don’t get any cardio. Cardio is important for your heart and overall health. Walking is very gentle on your body, but will also give your heart a chance to pump more, giving you some form of cardio.
Repetitive movement without weights or equipment. This is a big one for me because I love lifting weights, but that is pretty much out of the question. I practice calisthenic movements as often as I can to get muscle tone. The great thing about this is you can find just about any kind of movement to work your muscles without hurting a joint that bothers you. Since my elbows are the worst, I like to keep my arms toned with simple arm circles. I do 45 second to 1 minute intervals and try to do three to four sets of those. Other favorites of mine are squats, leg lifts, standing crunches, fire hydrant, and occasionally lunges. I have found that I do best when I try to do this about three times per week.
Benefit: Maintaining some form of muscle tone. Although this movements won’t make you “cut”, they keep your body moving and help keep those important muscles working. If you can’t do any of these, that’s okay! Start out with even one movement. There are times when I’m not able to do any of these, but I just try the next day.
Basically, movement is key to keeping your body working when you have RA or ANY kind of limitations. I know for a fact, when I stop moving, I get very stiff and even the basic activities like putting something in the microwave become a challenge. Although this disease continues to get worse as I get older, I am in better shape now than I was ten years ago! I spent many long years not being able to do anything physically and I just assumed that was how it had to be.
My mom teaches chair yoga at nursing homes and uses these techniques as well. If you suffer from RA, physical limitations, or if you just need to slowly get back in shape, this will help you tremendously.
The important thing to remember with all of this is consistency and patience. It’s a long, slow road, but it must be done all the time to get benefits!
Next I will be sharing with you the diet I have followed for about six years now. Many medications I have taken over the years have caused weight gain and other side effects. I combat that with diet as best I can. So, follow along for more tips in the coming weeks. And as always, let me know if you have questions. Oh, and remember it helps to have a fitness buddy.
Ruger enjoys stretching outside when the weather is nice! He’s a yoga fan for sure. For more pictures of him, make sure you follow instagram #rugerthebulldog! Have a great day! And connect with me below for more information on my next post!
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