A Guide to Staying Active with Inflammatory Arthritis: Part 2

Blog by Isaac

Hello! I’m Isaac- an Arthritis Specialist Exercise Coach specialising in online arthritis exercise coaching. Now 26, I was diagnosed with JIA at the age of 11. Unlike other PT’s you may have worked with, I fully understand the limitations and barriers to exercising with Inflammatory Arthritis. I implement unique exercise adaptations and workarounds to help you exercise effectively with your condition and finally regain ownership of your body.

Week 1: Gentle Range of Motion and Flexibility Exercises 

Day 1-3: Warm-Up and Joint Mobility 

  • Warm-up (5 minutes): Start with 5 minutes of light cardio, like gentle walking or stationary cycling, to increase blood flow to your muscles. 
  • Joint Mobility (10 minutes): Perform gentle range of motion exercises for each joint, such as wrist circles, ankle pumps, and shoulder rotations. Do each movement 10-15 times. 

Day 4-7: Stretching and Balance 

  • Stretching (15 minutes): Focus on static stretches for major muscle groups, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds. Include stretches for arms, legs, and back. 
  • Balance Exercises (10 minutes): Practice simple balance exercises like standing on one leg while holding onto a stable surface for support. Hold each position for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat. 

Week 2: Strengthening and Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise 

Day 8-10: Gentle Strength Training 

  • Strength Training (15 minutes): Perform resistance exercises using light weights or resistance bands. Start with 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps for each exercise. Focus on upper and lower body strength but choose exercises that don’t exacerbate joint pain. 

Day 11-14: Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise 

  • Low-Impact Aerobics (20 minutes): Engage in low-impact aerobic activities like swimming, water aerobics, or stationary cycling. Start with 10 minutes and gradually work your way up to 20 minutes over these days.

Tips for Exercising with Rheumatoid Arthritis: 

Warm up/Cool down

Some typical dynamic warm up movements for upper body involve arm circles, chest stretches, arm hugs and arm swings. For the lower body, try hip circles, gate opening stretches, box squats and lunges with a twist. These will help prepare the body and reduce the chance of injury. Cool downs are equally as important! These will reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Hold these static stretches for roughly 30 seconds. 

Use assistive devices or modifications to make exercise more comfortable

Implementing exercise regressions (such as doing a push up on the wall to begin with) is an excellent way of easing yourself into exercise and starting off slowly. This is fundamental to ensure your safety and that your body gradually becomes familiar with these movements. Once you feel a little stronger and more confident, you can progress to a push up on your knees, then eventually into a full push up! Other modifications include using resistance bands or cable machines with straps that attach onto your forearms or just above the ankle. This allows you to perform common movements like the chest press, shoulder press, hamstring curl, quad extension, without having to use your wrists or place pressure through your ankles. These are examples of adaptations that I have implemented myself over the years and now instruct my clients to use in exercising effectively whilst reducing the impact on their joints. I look to increase the efficacy of movements whilst minimising pain and discomfort – and my clients have been getting on with this extremely well!

Versus Limits Coaching

If you’re looking to get into exercise then I would highly recommend coming to a professional like myself to provide you with the best support, guidance and bespoke program possible. Having lived with arthritis for 15 years now I truly understand the conditions and (nearly!) all of its intricacies. I get that some days the fatigue can be too overwhelming, the swelling can be too uncomfortable and hot, the pain can seem like it’s never going to go away, the stiffness is so frustrating and debilitating. But I work with you to cover all bases and understand in as much detail as possible, all of your limitations but most importantly, your potentials. I implement exercise modifications and alterations to enable you to re-engage with exercise and regain some control of your body, accommodating for anything you do and don’t want to do. You can take confidence in following a plan that you’ve had a hand in creating.  

For more information on exercising with RA check out our ”Importance of Physical Activity and Exercise‘ SMILE-RA module.

Join our Exercise & Back to Sport online Group to exchange experiences, information and hints and tips with others who live with RA.

Check out A Guide to Staying Active with Inflammatory Arthritis: Part 1

We hope this guide encourages you to stay active with Inflammatory Arthritis! Share your tips and experience with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram– we’d love to hear them!

Keep an eye out on our blog over the next few months for Part 3 where Isaac discusses the importance of Nutrition, Hydration and Sleep.