Low Impact Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

At Flexcin, we have many clients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The key ingredient in Flexcin, CM8, has patents for the treatment of RA. When it comes to exercise we brought in a nutrition and exercise expert for this post. Justin Check is an NSCA certified personal trainer and fitness nutritionist. He is located in Southwest Florida, and he put together helpful information on Exercises for RA rheumatoid arthritis.

Exercise is usually the last thing on someone’s mind when dealing with the painful symptoms of  RA. Unlike osteoarthritis which typically affects a single joint, RA is a systemic disease which can affect the joints throughout the entire body. Due to the overall “achy” body feeling many get from RA some may assume that it is inappropriate to exercise and begin to feel discouraged. However, numerous studies show that one of the best ways to combat RA symptoms is to follow a regular exercise program.

Proper exercise often limits painful RA episodes by strengthening the surrounding muscles of the joints, increasing mobility and blood flow, decreasing extra bodyweight, and boosting energy.

*Always consult with your physician before starting an exercise program, especially if you’ve had a joint replacement or major joint surgery.

Quick Considerations

  • Make sure you warmup with at least 10 minutes of low impact aerobics (brisk walking, biking, etc…) before engaging in exercise. Increasing body temperature reduces the risk of injury by allowing muscles to relax, lengthen, and stretch better.
  • Use caution when starting exercise if you’re experiencing a “flare up” where RA symptoms are exacerbated. Although it is normal to experience some moderate discomfort from exercise, if you experience any extreme, persistent, or sharp pain stop until your flare up has subsided.
  • You should exercise every muscle group of the entire body (lower body, core/trunk, upper body) at least once a week in your fitness program.
  • Tailor your routine to focus on your particular problem areas.

3 Main Types of Exercise for RA

Flexibility Exercises

These focus on range of motion (ROM) which is important for maintaining proper movement patterns and good mobility. Maintaining full range of motion through the joints allows for more movement without risk of injury. Flexibility exercises can include active or static stretching, yoga, and Pilates. Click below to view a pdf handout of example stretches for the corresponding body part affected.
*Recommendation: start using 1-2 of the same stretches per body part each day after a warmup and before strength training. Try a new stretch for each body part the following week and adjust your routine accordingly.

Strengthening Exercises

These focus on increasing muscle strength. This will help absorb impact and reduce stress on the joints. This also helps improve balance and movement. Resistance training also increases bone density and fights osteoarthritis. Strengthening exercises include resistance training with machines, free weights, resistance bands, or body weight exercises.
*Recommendation: if you’re inexperienced with basic strength training it is safest to begin using strength machines at a fitness center. Start with a light to moderate weight for each major muscle group. Slowly increase weight when it feels appropriate. Ideally hire a certified personal trainer to help you safely design an appropriate routine that you can follow every week.

Aerobic Exercises

These exercises help with cardiovascular health and blood flow. Getting your heart rate up increases blood flow to the entire body. This helps keep inflammation at bay and maintain a healthy weight. Low impact aerobic exercises include brisk walking, swimming, biking, rowing, or using an elliptical. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week.
*Recommendation: adding in a 30 minute brisk walk or bike ride just 5 days/week will meet the NIH guideline and help keep excess weight down. It will also serve as a good warmup before stretching and strength training.

Conclusion

These types of exercises for RA rheumatoid arthritis apply to all ability levels and conditions. Key to a successful program is to incorporate the right blend of exercises for your current condition and ability level. Always start off slow and warmup with low impact aerobic exercises. Tailor a routine that best suits your needs and focuses on your problem areas.

It’s important to keep moving and maintain ROM during severe flare ups, but discontinue your strength training routine until severe symptoms have subsided.

Exercise really does help with everything!

Justin Check

Justin Check is an NCSA certified personal trainer & fitness nutritionist, and the owner/operator of Check Total Health. He has over 8 years in the health and fitness industry, and is an advocate of natural supplements in conjunction with proper diet and exercise in order to help people attain the highest quality of life possible.Justin can be found at www.check-yourself.com.

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