I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in 2018 when the base joint of my big toes, riddled by gout for almost 50 years, became chronically inflamed.

One toe had a sausage-like appearance. My fingernails became pitted and fractured. I had had psoriasis on my scalp for about 8 years previous to my diagnosis.

We can talk about drugs. I take Enbrel and methotrexate, along with folic acid. Since my PsA hasn’t worsened, I stay with that program.

I tried to adjust my nutritional intake. I lost about 50 pounds and tried a gluten-free diet for 2 1/2 years. I cut back on red meat, leaned heavier on vegetables (local produce when available).

How walking impacts my PsA

But the most beneficial change was walking.

I was quite sedentary as a sports reporter and remained so after retirement. I discovered the StepCounter on my Apple smartphone and began to watch it daily. Prior to walking, there were many days under 1000 steps.

I have been walking 2500 or more steps (about a mile), well short of what's recommended, but much better than before. I do so on two swollen big toes and a torn right meniscus. Is it hard some days? Yes, it is, especially at first, but I had to be mentally strong. My mental health was taking a beating as I deteriorated physically and wrestled with the challenges of retirement. I made a stand.

I wish I could tell you I walk 8,000 steps a day. I don't. I've never hit 10,000. But I can tell you I've held PsA at bay in a mental and physical battle for my well-being averaging about 3,000.

Exercise improves my physical and mental well-being

Movement is the key. It transcends drugs. It improves my mental outlook. I've made a few friends in my neighborhood, always a good thing. I sometimes use a cane or walking stick, particularly on uneven ground. I put my ear buds in and wear my t-shirt that says, "Only old people know how to rock." Sometimes, I even feel well enough to dance.

Best wishes to all who face our challenges. If I've helped even one person, I’m delighted. Remember... every long journey must begin with a first step.

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