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Exercise & Activity

What Exercise Are You Able to Do?

  • By Angie

    I had a hip surgery last year that didn’t heal well and had subsequent nerve damage. I spent a year in physical therapy, but that was cancelled due to aggravating more than helping my symptoms. I am prepping for another surgery, but in a few weeks when I’m back on my feet, I’m joining a gym. I was curious what everyone has had success with in terms of exercise. My rheumatologist recommended Tai Chi and water exercise, and recommended avoiding yoga. I used to love yoga, so it saddens me to hear that. He said that over-extending and pushing flexibility limits can be bad, but I actually read here: that yoga is recommended. Any thoughts?

    Here’s what I’m planning on starting with:
    Water based strengthening to start (I learned this in PT and LOVED it)
    maybe a few water aerobics classes (if they’re available at my local gym)
    light strength training (after I get re-accustomed to it in water)
    Tai Chi (if it’s available at my local gym)

    I’d love to hear what everyone else is doing in terms of exercise. Maybe we can share tips or ideas!

    Here are a few I’ve found helpful:
    *Learn and practice proper posture until it is reflex. I know this sounds basic, but this was stressed to me in a full-time physical therapy program and it really has made a difference.
    *Learn biofeedback. It’s amazing what control can do to improve suffering and maybe even lessen pain.

  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi Angie ~

    The type of exercise that is best for each person with RA obviously varies depending on which joints are affected. Generally, gentle yoga can be ok for people with RA – but as your rheumatologist mentions over-extending can be a problem for some. Personally I find yoga difficult because of balance issues! Water-based exercises are almost always a good idea because it is a low impact environment. I love to swim or even do water aerobics. I’ve never tried Tai Chi myself but I have also heard good things about it!

    It may also be useful to at least talk with a physical therapist after your surgery and see what kind of exercises they would recommend for your particular situation.

    Best of luck to you!

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

  • By Leah1322

    I joined a gym myself. I am mostly doing weight training that I started in physical therapy and I also take a body flow class. Body flow combines yoga, tai chi, and pilattes. I cant do most of it, but I keep trying and respect my limits. I let the instructor know in advance that I have RA and what my limitations and problem areas are. So when she leads the class she will often say things like if you have trouble doing this move try this adjustment for less strain. They are also really good about encouraging you. And saying things like if you need to rest go ahead and start back up when able. It is ok to stop or take a break. She will say it to the entire class so i dont feel so self conscious or defective. Many of the other partivipants have ra or oa so most of the beginners need frequent breaks. I wish i had more water exercises available to me here. Good luck!

  • By debbie1963

    I had read that floating excersises were very therapeutic for rheumatoid sufferers with limited mobility and other chronic ailments. I have done this starting with a floating board, due to lung and heart problems. I have slowly moved up to back floating with out a floating device. I find it relaxing, and have seen small improvements in mobility and strength in muscles, and worsening of joint limitations have not continued since doing this. this it works well for me. thought I would put my personal experience out there for those who would like to do research on this subect.

    • By Lauren Tucker Keymaster


      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the community. It is wonderful that you have found something that works for your RA. I thought this article from one of our contributors Kelly would resonate with you. “Water therapy and Ra”

      Thanks so much for being part of our community!
      Best Wishes,
      Lauren (Community Manager

  • By malmooge

    Angie, I wish you the best of luck in exercise and recuperation from surgery!
    I have yet to try Aqua Zumba, but I intend to try it soon! Because of wrists, ankles, and toes…yoga is difficult for me. I have old Winsor Pilates dvds that I use occassionally, but I use a pillow because of having the “delicate” neck that she describes. She does have “modications” in her DVD workouts.

    The best and only consistent exercise that I manage weekly is walks outside, about 0.25 mile. I fit this in 3-4x per week.

    Exercise can be challenging when you are already lazy…and then too tired or in pain to “add more exercise” to your routine.

    Good luck!

  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi malmooge ~

    Aqua Zumba sounds really fun – I’d like to try it myself someday! In general, anything in the pool is great for people living with RA because it is extremely low impact. Pilates can also be fantastic – have you ever tried the reformer? If you take a reformer class there are a lot of springs and pillows and other things that can be used to provide support. With this type of support and modification I found that I was always able to work on something even when my joints were giving me a really hard time.

    But you are totally right that exercise can be challenging. I ope we can all continue to encourage each other here!

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

  • By Luzille

    I have a recumbent stationary bike. Some days I can only do 5 mins while other days 20 minutes or more. In addition to RA I have a sever ankle injury and my surgeon doesn’t walk me walking or swimming for exercise. It’s a very limiting situation. I have down sitting yoga in the past and would like to get back to that. It felt really good.

  • By Mariah Z. Leach Moderator

    Hi Luzille ~

    Glad to hear that you have been able to figure out at least some modified forms of exercise! It may also be worth talking to a qualified physical therapist to see if there are any other types of exercise that would be appropriate considering the situation with your ankle. Best of luck to you!

    ~Mariah~ (Site Moderator)

  • By Eebtool

    I feel bad that you and others need to go through surgery and have had to end a healthy activity you enjoyed doing.
    From what I have read here in this forum and on line in other RA related blog posts, I am extremely lucky that RA has not hit me as hard as it has so many others. Yet.
    At this point I can still get out and run up to 20 – 25 miles a week, depending on how I am feeling, and can still do what it takes for me to push my body and mind to survive 2 half marathons and a few 5K and 10K races each year.
    There are days when the run just is not going to happen, but that is the hand I have been dealt.
    I know that one day in the somewhat near future I will cross that hard earned finish line for the last time. That medal that I will earn on that day will be as important as the first one I worked for in 2013.
    I hope you can find an activity or exercise that will help keep you strong and with the time you are doing it, may your mind also find a few moments to clear and enjoy the simplicity of just being in the zone of what a workout can give you.

  • By StillFlaring

    The things I have found that help me are gentle stretches, water aerobics (with a great instructor who lets everyone know how to modify for the muscle group intended), and recumbent bike for 5-15 minutes, depending on how I feel that day. More than this and my tendons may get damaged. I miss being active, but these days walking uneven ground in our yard is too much for me,

    • By Eebtool

      Good to hear that you are, at least, able to do some stretching and make it to the pool for some activity. Keep up the hard work.

  • By KathyrnCarnes

    Hi Angie,
    I also used to love Yoga, but my RA also recommended me to avoid yoga for my back pain. My regular medicines were also not helping me in my pain and later on I was introduced to hydrotherapy through my friend which I am kind of water massage. On consulting my doctor and searching much about the therapy online, I came to know that hydrotherapy is next to body exercise and its benefits are great. Once going to the hydrotherapy centre and getting a therapy, I became much attracted to the new technology. After a few months, I was so excited when I came to know through my mom that there are many companies like Independent home, blues and many more which provide bathtubs which have hydrotherapy feature installed in the tub. I immediately contacted Walk tubs Phoenix and got the tub installed in my home so that I can daily enjoy my hydrotherapy. Now it has become my favourite exercise and I daily enjoy the bathing too through the water massage.