Changing Up Our Exercises

This time of self-isolating through the COVID pandemic has made my need to change up my exercises even more imperative if I have any hope of keeping my RA management stable.

Change my workout routine due to RA

But the fact is, I have had to do this throughout my journey with RA. I think back to when this disease first took hold over 25 years ago. At that time, I was a runner. I played tennis regularly. I did aerobic dance classes and played volleyball. Once RA took hold, all of those activities ended. It was heartbreaking and overwhelming. 

Over time and with the help of the treatments that eventually proved successful, I was able to explore some alternatives. Now I do Tai Chi and swim. I would guess most of us have faced the same decision making when it comes to developing acceptable exercise alternatives.

Adjusting workouts based on RA flares

The challenge remains.  How do we keep our bodies and joints moving while incorporating the realities of our RA into that decision-making process?  A process, I would add, that must consider the changing state of our RA at any given time.  When I am flaring, I am in no way able to do the same workout regimen that I can when my RA is under control.  That means I have to constantly shift what, how much, and how often to exercise. 

Movement has physical and mental health benefits

All the while, having a keen awareness that movement is crucial in the management of RA. Failing to find a way to keep our joints moving is not only physically detrimental but also mentally upsetting as well.  We all know the endorphins that are released when we exercise, keeping our minds positive and stable and sharp.  From a physical perspective, joints that are not kept in motion will become more painful, less agile, and eventually deteriorate from lack of use.

A menu of workout options

The key is what can we do at any given point in time.  I try to have a “menu” of options.  On the really good days, my swim workout can include jogging and aqua weight exercises in the water as well as doing laps. On my bad days?  I may only do some light walking and stretching.  And on some days, I do nothing. 

Being able to determine what and when and if are important strategies to develop. Listen to your body.  Over time you can begin to sense what will work for you.  It is hit or miss in the beginning and I still make bad choices from time to time.  But I am getting better.

Trying to stay physically active during the pandemic

So, back to how to cope with the current situation where my pool and gym are closed.  Now what?  Well, once again I am trying to come up with new ways to keep moving. My husband and I try to walk two times a day.  Some days we do 2-3 miles, sometimes less than 1. But we have developed a routine and that routine should be part of the strategy for any level of exercise you do.  I also do my Tai Chi every day to keep that gentle meditative movement a daily part of my day.

We can all adjust to this new normal just as we have for all the years of coping with RA.  It may take some more thought and consideration but we can and should do it!


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