As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I love to HAVE exercised much more than I love TO exercise. Somehow getting out there, getting sweaty, willfully straining and pushing and pulling and all the other inducements to a healthy and better body only seem worth it – after the fact. And that…after intentionally exercising for more than 30 years. Another as I’ve said before: Some of us are slow to learn. Oh boy!

However, more so now than ever, I’m seeing and recognizing the benefits of moving more and getting mobile. And that’s not only because of rheumatoid arthritis but generally because of age!  On the days I don’t get up and do something physical, my joints are definitely much more stiff, painful and lack fluidity.   No doubt about it, exercise greatly helps to reduce the symptoms of arthritis as it keeps the muscles strong and the joints flexible. It helps to keep the weight down and combats fatigue and depression. I also sleep better when I’ve excercised. Movement pumps fresh blood and thus oxygen and nutrients to joints which can decrease inflammation, stiffness and pain. All good stuff.

The key that keeps me moving is to do something I enjoy. And to have a goal. I love, love, love to run but with my knees in the state they are in now, its just not possible. However, I have set myself a goal for this time next year when I want to do a triathlon. 750m swim – no problem. 20 k bike ride – no problem. It’s the five kilometer run I’ll have to work on. Its mostly through desert sand too, killing on knees and legs, but hey ho, watch this space.

Did I ever mention that I don’t intend to “manage” this disease but to conquer it completely. Oh yes!

I really enjoy swimming and it’s an amazing form of exercise for the arthritis sufferer. The buoyancy of the water keeps the body up and so reduces the stress on painful weight-bearing joints. Both swimming laps and water aerobics can give you a good workout while keeping your joints limber and allowing you to increase your range of motion.

This is what the Arthritis Foundation has to say about swimming:

  • “The soothing warmth and buoyancy of warm water make it a safe, ideal environment for relieving arthritis pain and stiffness.
  • Immersing in warm water raises your body temperature, causing your blood vessels to dilate and increasing circulation.
  • Water exercise is a gentle way to exercise joints and muscles.
  • Water supports joints to encourage free movement, and may also act as resistance to help build muscle strength.
  • Using a spa adds a component to the therapy – massage. Jet nozzles release warm water and air, massaging your body and helping you relax tight muscles”

Biking is convenient for me and although my knees don’t always like it and tend to flare up at times, I still do it as I have a good exercise bike with a nice big fat padded seat (my bum loves that). It has a 20 minute interval training setting, so I can get on my bike and only twenty minutes later get off, red in the face, sweating, huffing and puffing and feeling so good, having done a thorough work out.

Even though I enjoy biking and swimming they don’t come close to my most favourite of favourite exercise times and that is going to a functional movement gym twice a week. Its probably the only time in my life that I don’t have to argue myself into getting going…. I really enjoy it that much.