Post Contributor:: Valerie Johnston :: Healthline.com health and fitness writer
While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are several things that you can do to reduce joint pain, joint stiffness, and other symptoms of the disease. A well-rounded, healthy diet; relaxation techniques for reducing stress; and achieving improved sleep are a few lifestyle changes that you can work toward in order to manage your symptoms.
Exercise should also be a key component of your long-term treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis. Regular exercise will increase your range of motion, increase joint protection, reduce joint stiffness and pain, improve muscle strength, and boost endurance.
Getting Started with Exercise
If you are not accustomed to regular exercise, it is important to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor. Begin with exercises that you can comfortably perform, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. Only increase the intensity of your workouts after you have built a solid foundation (increased endurance, strength, etc.). A fitness trainer or a physical therapist can provide guidance so that you know how to perform exercises safely and in a way that is suited to your current fitness level.
Before any exercise, it is important to warm up and to stretch the muscles. This will help you to avoid injuries and to comfortably perform a wide variety of range-of-motion exercises. If you experience pain or inflammation during or after exercise, be sure to give your body adequate time to recover. Pain is common during and after exercise, but it should not be excessive. Of course, joint pain comes with the territory if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Using a cold pack on sore joints and muscles after a workout can help quite a bit with pain management. By progressing slowly over time, you can avoid injuries and will be more likely to make a habit out of exercise.
Exercise Techniques for Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are specific exercise techniques that can help in reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. For example, tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that has helped countless people with arthritis to increase their mobility, sense of relaxation, and overall quality of life. Tai chi incorporates many of the essential management tools—stress reduction, physical activity, mental focus, controlled breathing, etc.—that you can use to manage your condition.
Low-impact aerobic exercise is one of the best forms of physical activity for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Swimming, cycling, resistance training, yoga, Pilates, elliptical training, and walking are all examples of low-impact aerobic exercises that will not cause stress to your joints. High-impact exercises such as running, tennis, and plyometrics add a lot of stress to the joints and bones of the body, which can be especially problematic for people with arthritis.
Resistance training has grown in popularity among people of all fitness levels. Free weights, elastic bands, and resistance machines are a few types of resistance exercise tools that are, in general, safe for people with rheumatoid arthritis to use. The degree of resistance can be adjusted according to your current level of fitness and strength.
Swimming is an excellent way for people with rheumatoid arthritis to exercise. Water supports your body during movement so that the stress on your joints is minimized. If you enjoy walking, try walking exercises in a pool. A swimming instructor can show you how to perform various swimming techniques that will help you to increase muscle strength and mobility throughout your body.
Consistency by Customizing Your Workouts
Discovering physical activities that you enjoy will help you to maintain your exercise routine long-term. If you already enjoy going for walks, for example, make it a habit to get out for a walk every day. If you enjoy variety, design an exercise plan that includes walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and other fitness techniques. Finding your exercise niche will help you to manage your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms more effectively.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer for Healthline.com, keeping up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, she resides in East Texas.
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