Flare ups. Discomfort. Stiffness. These rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms can make starting an exercise program seem daunting. To the rescue: exercise aficionado Traci Danielson Mitchell, president of DM Nutrition & Fitness in Chicago, with her five favorite tips for coping, calming and creatively moving to minimize symptoms of RA. As always, be sure to consult your healthcare team before beginning any new fitness routine.
Don’t get overwhelmed by working out. Start small—meditation, stretching or walking. Do what feels comfortable for your body, and you can add more into the mix when you’re ready. “You’ll be much more inclined to commit to exercise if it’s something that’s not forced, but rather feels good during and after,” explains Mitchell.
Although it may sound crazy, buying new workout attire is a winning way to jump-start your fitness routine. “When you look good, you feel better,” Mitchell explains. “I always suggest investing in one or two items that will help you stay committed and make you feel stylish, even when you’re sweating.” And don’t forget: The money you spent outfitting yourself will be wasted if you don’t exercise—another guilt-inducing reason to stay motivated.
Your workout has three crucial parts: before, during and after. To maximize the fitness portion—and feel great enough to come back for more, the next day—you must properly prepare your body for the exercise, and soothe it afterward, Mitchell says. Learn some key pre- and post-workout stretches, and never skimp on them. That way, your body will be better equipped to tackle your next workout.
Medicine ball, resistance bands, Bosu ball: If you haven’t heard of these items, look into them ASAP. Each offers easy exercise options for at-home use that work with your body to reduce inflammation and minimize pain through stretching.
“In my experience, people who exercise with friends or in a team setting are more likely to stay vested, focused and devoted to the routine,” Mitchell says. That’s why it’s important to recruit people to move with you. Bonus: The time will fly when you’re doing it in cahoots with others. Choose a topic to discuss at each workout session—for example, celebrity gossip one week and healthful recipes the next—you’ll stay energized and learn something new.