Benefits of Low-Impact Exercises
When talking about exercising with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), many individuals may laugh at the thought. Pain and joint swelling can often make activities challenging, or feel insurmountable. Although it may seem scary or difficult, regular exercise really can be the key to reducing many of the more difficult symptoms of PsA. According to our “Psoriatic Arthritis in America” study, about a third of respondents reported not exercising at all, with the most common barriers being joint pain, stiffness, fatigue, lack of motivation and depression, or even work and household duties leaving very little time to dedicate to an exercise routine. However, and many may find it hard to believe, exercising with PsA can actually reduce or improve all of these symptoms, if you can find a routine that works well for you and that you can stick to.
Benefits of exercising
Everyone has heard time and time again that exercise is good for us and provides many benefits. But what exactly do those benefits look like for individuals with PsA? First off, regular exercise, including range of motion techniques and simple strength training can actually reduce stiffness and swelling of joints, leading to an easier ability to perform daily tasks. Additionally, a simple exercise routine can help reduce stress and fatigue, as well as improve mood, while maintaining crucial bone density. By finding an exercise routine that works for you, and continuing it regularly, many of the barriers to exercising in the first place can often be eliminated!
But how do I do it?
Many of you may be reading this and laughing at how oversimplified it seems. Living with a chronic condition can present so many more challenges than expected, and simply saying “go exercise, it’s good for you!” is just not feasible. However, what many individuals don’t realize is exercising doesn’t have to include a fancy gym membership, or a trainer, or even high intensity workouts. Not at all! Exercising can be incredibly low impact and tailored to your specific needs. It’s all about finding what’s best for you. Often enlisting the help of a physiotherapist, which your rheumatologist may be able to recommend and work with, can be a simple first step.
Exercises can come in two forms. Therapeutic and recreational. Therapeutic exercises are the ones that may cause individuals with PsA more stress. These are the strength training exercises and range of motion activities that can seem challenging or lead to soreness. Working with your doctor or physiologist may be a great first step here to find therapeutic exercises for you, without overdoing it. Additionally, recreational exercises can be used in tandem with therapeutic exercises to keep you active, while avoiding soreness and increasing enjoyment. These are activities meant to refresh and rejuvenate your mind and body. They can include anything from walking, yoga, swimming, or cycling. Whatever your body can feasibly do, without causing your body and mind harm.
Maintaining a routine
We can talk about getting exercise all we want, but unless we stick to our plan, we won’t see results. When pain, frustration, or other commitments set in, it can be hard to continue even the best laid plans. However, there are tips and tricks you can use to make your plan exciting and feasible.
- Enlist family and friends—not only will they keep you accountable, but working out with a buddy is always more fun!
- Choose activities you enjoy—after all, it is YOUR exercise plan. Don’t waste any time or energy on activities you at least remotely have fun doing.
- Try new things—hydrotherapy is an example of a lesser-used exercise method that can provide many benefits. Talk to your doctor or physiologist.
- Have remedies on hand—you will no doubt get sore at times, so having plenty of ice packs or heating pads (depending on what you prefer) can help alleviate discomfort.
- Work your plan into your daily routine—household chores, walking kids to school, cycling to work, virtually anything can be turned into a mini-exercise burst. Getting the activity you need does not have to happen at a gym or specific location. Take your plan on the go with you!
Again, you may think that there is no way you would ever be able to start an exercise plan and stick to it, and you are definitely not alone. However, getting the exercise you need can be a lot more feasible that anticipated! If you have started or are maintaining a good exercise regimen, let us know what you’re doing, and how you’re sticking with it!