Many people with Rheumatoid Arthritis think that in order for your muscles to get strong, you have to lift heavy weights, but that’s not necessarily true. Your muscles get stronger when you use resistance. All you need is 5 to 15 pounds of weight – whatever feels comfortable, but not too easy. Strength training allows the muscles to get stronger and carry more of the load in your day-to-day life so your joints aren’t overburdened.
Talk to your doctor or a fitness trainer about strength training exercises that are right for you. Whether you use free weights, resistance bands, or weight machines, find something that is both safe and enjoyable.
When your joints are the cause of your pain woes, the last thing you’ll want to do is put added pressure on them. So avoid high-impact exercise like running and jumping. Instead, turn to low- or no-impact exercises.
Swimming is one of the best no-impact exercises you can do. The water gives you buoyancy – you float – and it takes the pressure off your joints. Plus, swimming around in a pool takes a lot of strength due to the resistance the water creates. So your muscles will get stronger and better support your joints out of the pool.
If you’re a member of a gym or community center, you can take advantage of the stationary bicycle. The stationary bicycle gets you moving, elevates your heart rate, and doesn’t put any unnecessary pressure on your joints. Your heart will become stronger and healthier, and you may even come to love the “runner’s high” effects of a good cardio bike workout.
Flexibility and Balance
Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are all no-impact exercises that help you improve your flexibility, breathing, and balance. By doing slow, focused exercises that incorporate total body awareness and breathing techniques, you will become more aware of your body’s strengths and weaknesses while gradually building to a healthier you. Join a local class or watch videos online to learn the proper techniques and adjustments for your body.
Another great way to improve your flexibility and range of motion is by stretching. Stretching helps to relieve tension in the muscles, improve your mobility, and releases toxins trapped in the body. There are a number of different stretches that you can try, so find ones that feel good and relieve your pain.
Though doing yoga, tai chi, or stretching may not seem like exercise – often it is more relaxing than taxing – you will be strengthening your body in a lot of ways. Just make sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and flush out the toxins that are released through stretching.
Check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine. If you want relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain plus the added benefits of healthier bones, muscles, and organs, exercise is just what you need.