The Great Outdoors and RA

Last updated: October 2021

If you live in a climate that has all 4 seasons, May and June become that time of year when we are eager to emerge from our cocoons of winter and begin to enjoy the outdoors in all its glory.

But, doing that with a condition like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) presents some challenges, especially if we have been a bit over those months mostly spent indoors.

Be deliberate and methodical

It has been my experience that - despite wanting to burst out into the outdoor world of activities that have been put on hold for months - I am much better off proceeding deliberately and methodically. 

Getting back into activities that our bodies have not done in months is a challenge for anyone, let alone those of us with RA joints to deal with.

Start slowly with small increases

First, I suggest starting with the basics. For me, that meant picking up my pace and distance, and the number of times walking.

During the winter months, weather often determined all of those factors. But now, with the weather improving, I find I can walk most days, faster and for a longer time. 

So, I began my methodical increase in all things related to my walking. I added a day a week, each week. I increased my distance a little each week. I picked up the pace as I gained strength as well. 

Eventually, I went from 2 days a week of walking (at best during the winter) to 5-7 days of walking.

Discover a new actvity

Next, I decided to try my hand (no pun intended) at pickleball. I had seen it, watched my family play it on vacation, and decided it might work for me if I was careful.

I am a former tennis player so I was comfortable with a racquet, although these are nothing like tennis racquets as I discovered.

So, I put on my knee braces and played with my son this past week. I loved it! I now plan to take lessons and see just how it might work for me. I hope to play in a non-competitive, social league which should be fun.

Re-engage with old favorites

After spending a few weeks doing some recumbent work on a bike in our building gym, I decided it was time to dust off my own bike that I have not used in several years and venture outside.

I got it tuned up, purchased a new and much more comfortable, lightweight, sleek helmet, and decided to try my hand at some short, light biking.

I have a touring bike with wide wheels, upright handlebars, and a comfortable seat. I was ready to give it a whirl. The first day it took me some time to get my balance regulated and so I made sure to go to a flat open, empty parking area to practice.

That was the best decision I made! It allowed me to build my confidence before going "out in public."

Know your limits

I also was given a lovely gift of golf lessons this Mother's Day from my sons and my husband, all of whom play golf.  I am almost done with them and I love it. 

I fully expected to have some major joint issues, but I think my indoor, all-year-round, swimming, and water workouts have prepared my body well. 

I also know my limits and only take so many swings in a lesson.

But don't be afraid to try a variety of activities

I hope that some, if not all, of these different activities bring me the physical outlet and enjoyment that summer has to offer. 

Doing a variety allows you to try them and see if any of them work for your particular circumstance. If not, it is back to the drawing board.

Careful planning and preparation is key

Preparing your body in advance with some exercises to strengthen those "new to the party" muscles is crucial. 

It is also important to start any new activity slowly and carefully, so you are not sidelined by a flare. Even starting up a beloved summer activity like annual gardening requires a slow and steady resumption of activities.

Part of successfully managing a chronic disease like RA continues to take vigilance. But with careful planning, we can enjoy both old and new summer activities. It adds to the joy of life and is something we should all pursue.


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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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