Tips for Routine Walks with RA

Last updated: August 2021

Walking is like medicine.

We’ve all heard this before: the more we move, the more we support and protect and strengthen and condition our joints, the lower we keep our blood pressures and the healthier we keep our minds and our bodies - right?

Then how come it feels so dang hard for me to convince myself to move sometimes?

Starting is often the hardest part

How come when my knees are screaming out in pain, I don’t feel like the best option is to go for a nice leisurely walk?

Because, friends, starting can often be the hardest part.

I always feel a bit better after a walk

Over the years of living with RA, I’ve learned that having a routine associated with movement, especially walking, is what’s most likely to get me up and out the door.

And, when I’ve finished with my walk, I always feel at least somewhat better, even if it’s just mentally.

How to create a walking routine

So, how can I help support you in working towards this goal too? Here are some tips I’ve collected over time.

1. Having a separate reason or incentive to go for a walk is really beneficial (like more of a reason than just helping my joints or getting fresh air). Things that have worked for me? A morning walk with my dog who actually needs to go outside, listening to a podcast that I only play when I'm on a walk, or walking to a nearby coffee shop to get a treat before walking back home.

2. Start slowly. If you haven't been getting much movement in lately, start with walking for just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Be kind and graceful with yourself as you push the time limit further back. If you're feeling pain in any of your joints while walking, be sure to talk to your rheumatologist about the types of movement you are doing and the shoes you are wearing.

3. On that note: have good, supportive, comfortable, correctly-sized shoes. Make sure that you have at least two different pairs that you can alternate between.

4. Try to find flat paths around neighborhoods to start. As you gain momentum and practice, adding hills or other terrains may increase the challenges and benefits from your walk.

5. Take breaks. Don't feel like you have to walk from the time you leave your home until the time you return. Find benches to sit on or sidewalks where you can rest. Catch your breath, have some water, and re-group before continuing on.

6. Plan the time of day so it's not at the peak of the sun or heat for the day. Many people find that mornings before work or evenings after work offers more shade and cool air than walking on a lunch break, for example.

7. Think about using a pedometer or app to count your steps! This is a fun way not only to track the amount of activity you are experiencing each day but might give you some incentive to push past your routine and get in some additional steps.

For those of you that try to incorporate walking or movement into your daily routine, what else would you add to the tips I've listed here?

Also, what are your favorite podcasts or audiobooks to listen to while moving? I can't wait to read your suggestions!

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