When you’re in pain and feel fatigued, being physically active may be the last thing on your mind. But research shows that exercise helps to relieve rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms and improve day-to-day functioning. Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program and incorporate a mix of flexibility, range of motion, aerobic and strengthening exercises. Here are some ways to get moving.
Stretching is one of the best ways to reduce stiffness and maintain range of motion, and should be part of every exercise program. Start with a 3- to 5-minute warm-up – you can march in place and pump your arms either sitting or standing. Then stretch and hold different muscles and joints for 10 to 20 seconds before releasing.
Helps with: flexibility, range of motion
Yoga and tai chi are ancient practices that combine deep breathing, gentle, flowing movement, poses and meditation. Studies show that both practices have great benefits for people with RA. The Arthritis Foundation offers yoga and tai chi DVDs and a Tai Chi Program, all specifically designed for people with arthritis.
Helps with: flexibility, range of motion, balance, stress
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Exercise is sure to be on your to-do list if you have diabetes. Get started with these go-to tips:
1. Make a list of fun activities. You have lots of options, and you don't have to go to a gym. What sounds good? Think about something you've always wanted to try or something you enjoyed in the past. Sports, dancing, yoga, walking, and swimming are a few ideas. Anything that raises your heart rate counts.
2. Get your doctor's OK. Let them know what you want to do. They can make sure you're ready for it. They'll also check to see if you need to change your meals, insulin, or diabetes medicines. Your doctor can also let you know if the time of day you exercise matters.
3. Check your blood sugar. Ask your doctor if you should check it before exercise. If you plan to work out for more than an hour, check your blood sugar levels regularly during your workout, so you’ll know if you need a snack. Check your blood sugar after every workout, so that you can adjust if needed.
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While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain, research shows that people can and should exercise when they have osteoarthritis. Exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in osteoarthritis.