Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the tissue around a joint. It causes pain, stiffness and loss of range of motion and can even affect the other organs. Exercise is the best form of therapy for arthritis, as it keeps the joints flexible. Here are a few low impact exercises that are sure to bring relief from RA symptoms.
Gentle stretching exercises are suitable for those with RA. Stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion of the affected joint. Daily stretching or yoga not only helps relieve pain, but will also reduce stress. For example, an overhead arm stretch is a good functional stretch for the upper body, for example. While sitting down or standing up, raise your arms overhead and stretch. Keep your shoulders relaxed and lift the fingers towards the ceiling. As you stretch, do not force the stretch or bounce. By holding the stretch for at least 20 to 30 seconds, you can improve your joint’s range of motion. Just be sure you are never in pain when performing any stretching exercise.
Strengthening your body’s joints, muscles and tendons can bring greater relief over time. Light hand weights, tubes, bands or your body weight can be used as forms of resistance in a strengthening routine. You can start with low repetitions and do only one to two sets every alternate day. For example, try shoulder raises by standing and holding a light weight in each hand. Slowly lift your arms up and out to your sides. Continue to lift until the weights are parallel with your shoulders. Pause for two to three seconds and release your arms down. Perform all exercises slowly and control your movement in each exercise. Don’t forget to breathe as you exercise and stretch at the end of the routine.
Hydrotherapy and water aerobics are some of the best exercises for people with RA. The movement and warm water help make your muscles and joints feel better. By exercising while immersed in water, the stress on your joints is reduced and your balance and coordination improve drastically. Exercising in water can also improve bone mineral density. Try to select water temperatures between 84 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Your exercise program should include at least two to three days of water-based exercises per week.
Walking is a very good exercise for those with RA. Make sure you have on a pair of supportive and comfortable walking shoes before starting a walking program. Walk two to three days a week and gradually increase to four to five days a week. If you ever have increased pain or swelling in a joint, discontinue the exercise and consult your physician.