Let me just say this – I don’t like to exercise. I am always baffled by people who genuinely love working out. While I always enjoyed sports growing up, until I had to quit – softball, basketball, and cheerleading – the idea of going to a gym or having a strict fitness regime has never appealed to me, and likely never will. Toss in an arthritis diagnosis at the age of 10 (one that has the capability to affect any and all joints, and has never went into remission) and exercise becomes even harder.
So, what do I do? The answer is: not much. And, that’s ok – because I do enough. I do “a little” and only what I can do. I have learned that while physical activity is a natural pain reliever for RA and other conditions, the most important thing is to pay attention to your own body, and to know your own abilities and limitations. Of course, there are people at both ends of the spectrum: RA’ers who can run marathons and climb mountains, and others who are homebound and in a wheelchair. That’s why it is important to know what you can handle. Everybody and every body are different.
Though exercise is hard, it is important. Remember, on hard days, that if you just “keep moving” then something is better than nothing. On a hard day, you can consider vacuuming your living room to be your daily exercise. Or if all you can do is walk your dog, good – you’re off to a great start. If you really can’t do much at all, even STRETCHING is better than nothing. You can do simple stretches even from your couch or bed! There is also chair yoga and tai chi as other low-impact options.
If you feel like you can manage to be a little more fit, why not try an arthritis-friendly exercise or yoga class? Or, how about water aerobics or cardio via the elliptical? Of course, you’ll always want to consult your doctor before trying anything, but remember that small victories are better than nothing. If your knee hurts, but your arms and hands are OK, consider lifting 5-lb. weights. If you can’t do 5-lb. try 3-lb., and so on. Simple range-of-motion exercises are good, too, especially for your neck and your wrists! Reward yourself with a hot bath or shower, or have your partner or caregiver give you a massage – you’re worth it!
I know that it is hard to find motivation to “exercise” but no one is saying that you need to become the next Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons. Join a mall-walking club. Get physical therapist. Try resistance bands. Park a little further away from the grocery store to get in some extra steps for the day. Stretch before bed and upon waking. Picture your body as the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man and movement as the oil. It won’t be easy every day. There will be times when you need to rest and won’t be able to do much of anything – that’s to be expected, so don’t beat yourself up over it. But when you’re feeling up to it, staying somewhat active will be a gift to your body.
I hope I can hear all about your victories with exercising. It is important, when living with any form of arthritis to focus on OVERALL wellness – of your mind, your body, your soul, and your spirit! So let’s lean on one another and move together towards optimal health and a positive lifestyle of wellness!
And Happy Valentine’s Day!
Read this original post in the RA Connect community, here.
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