Ready to Exercise? - Recommended activities for RA patients
There are several types of exercise that are ideally suited to individuals living with RA. The most important thing is to find activities that you enjoy doing. Look for exercises that are low impact, low intensity, and weight bearing.
Stretching. Stretching is a critical component of any exercise program for RA. Stretching helps prevent stiffness and improve flexibility and range of motion. Many people with RA benefit from daily stretching—especially before and after more-strenuous exercise.
Swimming and other water sports. Swimming is an excellent choice for individuals with RA because the water supports the body, thereby limiting the amount of stress on the joints. In addition, some people enjoy water aerobics or simply walking in water—either in waist-deep water or in deep water with a flotation vest.
Tai chi. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that features slow, flowing movements. It is a system of meditative physical exercises designed for relaxation, balance, and health. It has been shown to relieve stiffness and improve strength and balance.
Walking. Walking is one of the simplest, most natural forms of exercise there is. It is a gentle, low-impact way to move your body, increase your heart rate, gain cardiovascular benefits, and ease your way into a higher level of fitness. The best part: you get to choose the distance and the speed that is appropriate for you.
Cross-country skiing. If you live in a wintry place, cross-country skiing can be an excellent low-impact activity for building endurance and getting fresh air.
Biking. Bicycling is a simple and fun form of exercise. Cycling is a low-impact sport that does not have the excessive pounding associated with activities such as running. It increases joint movement and can actually strengthen joints because it builds cartilage rather than breaks it down.
Strength and resistance training. Strength training is important because RA can often lead to weakened muscles. You can choose from a variety of resistance tools, including elastic bands, free weights, medicine balls, and machines—and even your own body weight. Weight machines are sometimes discouraged because they can force the joint into a specific predetermined movement pattern. Many people find that elastic bands are the optimal choice.