Exercising With Rheumatoid Arthritis
In rheumatoid arthritis the immune system attacks the tissues of the joints, leading to pain, inflammation, and eventually joint damage and malformation.
The severity of rheumatoid arthritis varies between individuals, who will experience periods of remission, when they feel well, and 'flare-ups', during which the body tissues become inflamed. During a flare-up sufferers are advised to rest as much as possible to prevent aggravating the inflammation and causing more pain.
How can I carry on burning calories during a flare-up?
A rheumatoid arthritis flare-up is a blow to anyone trying to follow an exercise programme to lose weight. However, there are some calorie-burning activities you can do, as long as you remember the golden rule - if an exercise increases the pain STOP DOING IT!
Listening to pain during exercise is vital, because you can tear muscles and cause even more pain and joint swelling if you perform exercises incorrectly when the joint is flared up.
Suitable physical activities
- In terms of cardiovascular exercise, the impact of walking could quite easily aggravate the joints like the hip and knee as you make contact with the ground. However, it may be possible that a non-impact exercise like stationary cycling may not cause the same level of aggravation and may be managable in small, gentle doses.
- Strength exercises, non-impact bodyweight exercises or even resistance exercise with machines may be possible in areas where the joints are not affected. For example, if you suffer most with your lower limbs and your shoulders or elbows are less affected then it may be possible for you to do some upper body resistance exercises in a slow, controlled manner.
- Stretching is another non-impact option, and people often forget that it burns calories. Stretching can also help deal with the tension your body will be under during flare ups when the pain is constant. You should ideally only stretch muscles that do not impact on an inflamed joint. Hold stretches for 30 seconds and don't bounce, it should be static. Stretching can be done daily, and should be done at least every other day (if flare ups permit) to help relieve stiffness and keep joints flexible.
Accept that sometimes rest is best
If all the above exercises still cause pain, then it is best to accept that rest really is the best solution for severe auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Try to eat extra-healthily and cut down slightly on your calorie intake (so long as you don't go below the recommended 1400 calories a day), to keep your weight loss plan on track.