Getting Outside When You Have RA
I'm just returning from a long hike in one of my favorite parks in town.
I don't do this too often, but I felt the need to do so because I wanted to ground myself in nature again and connect with the earth.
Getting outdoors is bit challenging
Something that I thought about while I was on my hike was that I can't always take these hikes as much as I used to.
Calculating when I take these walks is important because when you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you can't always take long walks or hikes due to joint pain, inflammation, fatigue, and other symptoms of RA.
And while this should make me appreciate the hikes and walks that much more, there is some feeling of a loss of self and a loss of what I used to be able to do.
But, what I want to talk about today is the importance of being in nature when you have RA.
Benefit of getting out in nature
Part of the benefit of getting out in nature is that physically moving your body is good for RA. Joints are usually very stiff in the morning; so, even though it doesn't feel like it, moving your body helps break the stiffness and helps reduce some inflammation.
Improve symptoms and mood
You can't walk too fast and usually can't do anything too strenuous unless you've had practice and have been working up to something like running or a more strenuous hike. But, even some movement makes the body feel better.
Exercising is a key component to making your body feel better also because it can help break some fatigue and improves your mood.
In my experience, I have found that when I start feeling down about having RA or feel extremely tired, I try and push myself to go for a small walk. The difference is striking when I come back after my walk and feel so much better.
Time for self-reflection
In my experience, there's also a deeper reason why being in nature is beneficial for RA. Grounding yourself in nature centers your breathing and helps you self-reflect.
It helps align and re-center your thoughts on things that have been troubling you. I use my time in nature to think about the things I haven't been able to think about.
Either that or I use the time to purposefully not think because I am an over-thinker (which is very draining). Going into nature recharges me and brings back purpose into my life.
Other ways to enjoy the outdoors
There's other forms of being in nature too beyond walking and hiking.
Some of the most impactful nature experiences can simply be having lunch in the park and unwinding, meeting up with friends and talking, swimming in a river, ocean, lake, etc.
Nature is restorative
The possibilities are endless, but the point here is that being in nature is restorative and can take on many forms. Its intersection with having a chronic illness is important and often not explored.
Particularly as the summer approaches its end (or if you're where I live: continues throughout the year), I encourage you to get outside, even if it's just for a little bit, and feel the sun, the wind, all of the earth elements.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?