Exercise advice plse?

Hi everyone

I've found this site invaluable for help and support, so many thanks to you all.

My hubby is 61 years old and before RA hit him early this year, he was extremely strong, fit and healthy.

Now he's lost so much body tone and his arms are quite wasted. He's putting weight on now, but onto his belly not his arms as he's not exercising at all.

I've read snippets out from this site about the benefits of exercise despite a certain level of pain, but hubby just won't as he says it's so painful afterwards. Far be it from me to push him about this, as I could be exacerbating his RA.

i just think it's a case of use it or lose it, but I don't really know.

Would welcome any pearls of wisdom!!

Thank you, Sue x

33 Replies

  • There have been some forms of exercise adapted for RA - in particular there is a Tai Chi for arthritis and what they call Fitness Yoga (more emphasis on gentle movement and less on holding poses, and includes exercises that can be done from a chair) - Arthritis Care UK trains people to run these classes so worth calling them and seeing if there is something in your area.

  • Thank you, will look into that. Take care, Sue x

  • My husband has RA the best exercise for him was riding a bike there isn't any strain on the joints. He could ride the bike better than he could walk. My husband too was very athletiic it kept him in shape up to a point.

    He is 80 and at present has a broken hip so not sure he will ride again. He had already had 1 hip replaced 7 years ago.

    If your husband doesn't like the idea of riding on roads get a static one we both have debilitating arthritis but could both ride a bike.

    Slowly does it keep moving

    Jen X

  • Thank you. Hubby has a bike which he's going to try. I was worried about his balance which is why I never gave it a thought. Appreciated, Sue x

  • I'm sure he'll be fine . My balance Isn't all that clever. But I do find the bike a wonderful way of propelling myself (psoriatic Arthritis)

    Good luck

    Jen X

  • I have found that swimming has been very beneficial to me & infact helped to ease the pain, the water is very soothing. I have often had to push myself to go, but definitely feel better for it.

    Good luck x

  • Thank you for replying. Hubby is worried about getting in and out of the pool, as there are steps in and out of it. Wouldn't be bad at all if you could just walk into the pool. Bless him, he's lost all his confidence. Damn illness. Will bear it in mind. Take care, Sue x

  • A year ago I was lifting parcels in a night shift for parcelforce, some of which were up to 70kg. Now I can not lift a full kettle.

    I have posted liberally hereabouts my advocacy for a whole-food plat based diet, and challenge anyone to adopt it and remain overweight!

    I have now begun to get my wrists working without pain after so many months. This means I am able to exercise them and use them. They are not trustworthy for big pushes & pulls, but with daily use at least I am finding some strength is coming back.

    Yours aged 63.

  • Hello, thank you for replying. Hubby can relate to your experience. All very encouraging to hear. And it cheers the old man up!! Take care, Sue x

  • I have tried various forms of exercise but the best one is walking. Avoid any impact exercise. Swimming is also good. Since we got a dog and as my husband is frequently away I had no choice but to walk our dog. The difference it has made has been very noticeable. Weight loss, feeling so much better mentally and knowing I am doing myself good.

  • Thank you for taking the time to reply to me. Have received such useful advice. Much more than we have from consultant/rheumatologist!! Sue xx

  • If your OH is recently diagnosed, has he got the RA under control yet? As the early stages of having this disease can be the absolute worst, and being in constant pain is totally demotivating. Yes, it is use it or loose it - especially for the over 40's. But coming to terms with this disease is a slow process and trying to do too much too soon can be unhelpful physically and emotionally.

    Physically if he still has lots of inflammation then best not to push the joints too hard, and rather than "exercise" concentrate on movement. Even just moving around the house,walking up and down stairs, to the end of the road to the post box all help. The worst is to sit on the sofa all day. So if he is, and you are doing lots for him then stop - better that he gets his own cup of tea, and yours of course!

    Is he able to talk about how he feels, and work out how to come to terms with having a chronic disease? As that's also an important step. I know I refused to recognise this for quite a while, and I got stuck in a downward spiral of negativity that seemed to stop me doing anything.

    Beyond that, to me you need to find something that you enjoy. For example, I hate chlorine, and it makes my eyes sting, so swimming in a pool is misery and there's no way I'd do it no matter how good it is for me. Are there activities that you could do together, so rather than him "taking exercise" you are both off to do something you enjoy? At this early stage doing anything will help, and you can work slowly toward more formal exercise.

    I think for the first year I did nothing...walking to the shop at the end of the road was a day's achievement. But now I'm probably healthier and fitter than I've been for 20 years (if it wasn't for this pesky disease of course...). So don't despair, but keep encouraging.

  • Thank you for replying. I did tend to do too much, I couldn't help myself. Have backed off now for that very reason!! We do go "walking" and I try to encourage natural exercise, so we are on the right path at least. Take care, Sue xx

  • Hi Sue, I've had RA for 7 years; it's a monster. But, exercise is imperative. The best way to go is the Hydro-Pool (at your local swimming centre). Its like a gentle, warm, massage. You don't have to join a group, just learn the basics. You exercise every part of your body: guaranteed, and no suffering. Best of luck, Dawn.

  • Thank you Dawn. All the best, Sue xx

  • Hi Sue, the exercises are easy: you are 'pushing' against the water, which is the basis. Do all these multiple times (I spend a hour in the water). Push/walk across the pool , forward, and then backwards, across the pool, grab the sides of the pool, swing legs left & right, swing legs forward & back. Squat, pressing the body up & down. Get a pair of floating bar-bells (usually supplied by the pool) push them up & down, left &right, and swim with the bar-bells giving you flotation. My centre has a hydro-pool exclusively for people with physical complications, and is specially heated for this purpose, but you get 'creative' with the exercises, as you go along. Hope this helps, Dawn.

  • Thank you so much Dawn. I really appreciate everyone taking the time and effort to respond. Once we figure out how hubby can get in and out of the pool safely, it's a fantastic way of building up his muscles. Do take care, Sue xx

  • Hi totally agree with Helix, apart from the swimming which I love! At the beginning of this 'journey' I couldn't really walk extreme pain but also fear I think. When I did exercise I would over do it & cause a flare & like your husband says it just didn't feel worth it. Now my RD is under better control & I'm no longer fearful of the future, I walk daily, do aquafit & yoga. I get so much pleasure from these activities it's worth the discomfort that I get if I over do it ( I'm aware that my symptoms are a lot milder than many of the folk on here). I think Helix is right give your husband time & don't panda to him,well maybe just a little!!

  • Ha ha thank you for that!! Pandering will be limited to bad days only!! xx

  • Hi Sue,

    your husband may find the exercise section on our website helpful:



    Beverley (NRAS Helpline)

  • Hi Sue06,

    I do agree with helixhelix, just any kind of simple movement will help to move forward. I started to exercise about 4 month after the onset of the disease. To start off, I was only using a 2 1/2 long stick to move my hands up and down and front and back. In addition, I also walked everyday. I found walking was the best exercise that helped me to build the stability and confident in myself hence I could do better to move on to more regular exercise after that.

    I tried to see what kind of exercise that I could do convenient to me around because I was not mobile then. Swimming no doubt is very good but I needed to find a pool around if I wanted to get on with that. So just any kind of exercise that makes you move all your joints will be good and help if you can do it consistently.

  • Thank you Amy. I agree with the walking. Need to push hubby a little bit more!! xx

  • Sue06,

    I was not able to walk properly at the peak of my suffering. I could just fall over on uneven road. With the help of my daughter by my side, she took me to the nearby garden with play ground around, to walk around every evening after work.

    The stress was, I was worried to walk on uneven road because my ankles and knees were very weak and I could not balance myself as normal. My ankles just gave in on uneven road. Therefore, you need to encourage your husband not to worry because you will be by his side.

    After some months of walking around, I felt that my ankles and knees started to know how to balance themselves again so I could walk much faster and longer. I can even run now.

    As for my hands, after walking a few rounds, my daughter would send me to the play ground and she continue her run. I could not run then but just walk. In the play ground, I worked on my hands while waiting for her to come to get me.

    From just able to steer on the smaller wheels, I moved on to the bigger wheels, and all kinds of the equipment down there, I could feel I improved slowly each day. Therefore anything along the walking path, he can just use them to work on his hands too.

    If there is solid and station iron rail along the way, slowly he can put his hands on them and support his own body weight. That is to build his strength on his hands. Slowly he can go further to do the push up in the same way. If he is too weak to push up, then just stay holding on the iron rail to support his own body weight until he is strong enough.

    He can also holding on to the iron rail and squat down slowly. This is the exercise that I did too and I could squat down after many months of trying. Slowly squat a bit at a time, and slowly go further down if he can.

    Just do it slowly and a step a day, it will help. If it is too painful, he will know and just adjust it accordingly but do not give up.

  • Much appreciated you taking the time to send a long reply to me. Some excellent advice there I hadn't thought of!! Particularly push ups and squats. You sound a very determined lady and I have much admiration for you. I wish hubby was as pro active!! At least now I won't let him "get away" with as much. Slowly but surely. Take care. Sue x

  • Hi Sue, I agree with everything that others have said, but it does depend on what stage your hubby's at in treatment, and which joints are worst affected. - because it's the feet in my case, and I got so fed up with every single thing I read saying"walking is best!!" for exercise. If only..... If your hubby likes swimming, then there's nothing better. Does he see a physio at all? They can really be a big help. But when you're in a lot of pain, I agree it's only natural to want to curl up on the settee, rather than exercise! Good luck to you both.

  • Hello. I found simply walking in a heated pool very hrlpful. I live in Japan and on any given morning the pool is full of people just walking. There is even a walking only lane! Hope this helps. Take care.

    Cas xx 🌷

  • My physio told me to only swim 2 lengths but to walk 10. Wish we had a walking only lane!

  • Hi

    I havnt time to read all the replies sorry if this is repeating what others say.

    I would encourage your Hub to see GP or talk to Rheumy and get referred to physio.

    He needs strong muscles to support his joints and it sounds like his muscles are wasting due to lack of use. It's all about exercising for benefit but without a backlash. If he's hurting afterwards maybe he's done too much or not increasing activity slowly. All I do to keep active is walk.

    Swimming hurts my inflamed sternum. I can hold bike handlebars because of sore hands/wrists and gym is out.

    I can do Pilates if I modify the class to my ability.

    Take care

    Kiki X

  • Ah thank you Kiki. We've tried the usual methods of getting advice, as you say from our GP, rheumatologist without much success. The best help and advice i've been given are on this site!! i thank you all for all the practical ideas and suggestions. I know hubby can do more, he just has to believe it too!! I'll get him there!! Take care xx

  • Hi. I was told that walking is the best all round workout. It is difficult on the feet, I know from experience but I make myself do the minimum 10000 steps a day and I feel the benefit. Also swimming because it is gentle but beware, if you do exercises in the water it is much easier but also easier to over do it. You still feel stiff later. x

  • Ah thank you Sheila. I need to gently push hubby to walk a bit further. Well done to you, I must get a pedometer. Very old fashioned way of doing it I know, but it will work. Take care xx

  • Hi I have been doing water aerobics it does help a lot.

    Good luck.

  • Thankyou jenny for reply. After receiving a wealth of advice from a lot of kind people on this site I know I am right to keep on gently pushing hubby. Exercise is good for the mind and body xx

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