To exercise or not to exercise? : How do you all get on... - NRAS

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To exercise or not to exercise?


How do you all get on with exercise? I have gained a lot of weight over the years and although I've been assured by the Medics that this has nothing to do with my medication I'm not convinced. I have a healthy, balanced diet and still can't lose the weight. Anyway, I do know I need more exercise. What do others with R A find the best exercise? At the moment all I do is walk.

46 Replies

Hello Cinderella. My answer is a very definite yes, do exercise. it does nothing but good! Make sure tha you do non-impact exercise that can damage delicate joint surfaces. But muscular strength is good, essentisl in fact for supporting joints. My vote is for cycling, but some prefer swimming. Gym work is good as well as long ass you receive proper instruction on technique. Bd technique is very, well, errm, bad! Good luck.

Sinderella in reply to hawker955

Thanks for your reply. I've had a knee replaced and it no longer bends enough to cycle or row. Also although most people suggest swimming the force you need to exert against the water is really painful to the ankle and wrist joints. I can manage some standing yoga type exercise but anything on the floor is difficult as once down it's almost impossible to get up without help. Has anybody tried tai chi?

I have the same problem as you re knee replacements. I have thought about tai chi as well. If you do decide to try please keep us updated as to how it goes

Am looking for a tai chi class in my area. Will let you know if I find one

I have done Tai chi . A true d who had terrible R A recommended it as he said it was the one thing that helped him. I certainly benefitted from it but what i really love is yoga because it calms, energizes and keeps me mire mobile. I also have a better sleep after yoga. Try an hr class 1st.

Friend. Sorry should have checked 1st


I walk and swim. Sometimes I just exercise in the water rather than swim. It's much easier to exercise in the water. You don't have to roar up and down. I sometimes use a float and just exercise legs.

Sorry to hear that. Apparently there is a specific cycling-friendly replacement knee that can be used if someone knows that cycling is important. I believe that this version bends more than the usual replacement to facilitate the pedalling.No help for you, sorry.

Sinderella in reply to hawker955

I don't think that knee replacement option was available when I had mine done. It was nearly 18 years ago now.


I also can’t cycle problems with knees and can’t walk far neither and I swim like brick. 😆

I do Qi Gong with a dvd and I also have a balance board cost a tenner off eBay which I can use with my sticks I did ask my phyo before I did started with it.

But she said do what you can and don’t push yourself .

Thanks for that. I will think about a balance board. Also thought about one of those cycle exercise things that you use sitting down. That way not being able to pedal properly won't result in falling off. 😂

Yes my board is good for core and it’s new style also my phyo give me some others things to help myself and every little helps x


Walking, swimming especially; i built up slowly: makes my wrists ankles ache sometimes but important to keep moving i think and helps breathing, mental health, muscles.

Liked tai chi when first diagnosed, it's gentle,but don't think you re going to lose much weight with it. 5:2 diet but takes bit of willpower. i eat less & healthy but weight stays same so do blame meds 😄

Sinderella in reply to Hidden

I really think tai chi might be good for me as far as moving more not weight. Just trying to find a class in my area.

Hidden in reply to Sinderella

Probably is better with group: i just had dvd tai chi for arthritis to try it, good luck, hope you find something x

Walking, swimming, Pilates and these sorts of things suit me. I find anything high impact (like jogging) is too difficult so walk up hills instead to give myself a cardio work-out.

I find that I really notice it if I don't do some exercise every day.

I do keep fit, yoga and ramble, learning to dance and can swim but don't like it much. Use my Nordic trainer every day for 20 minutes as it makes me feel better.

Nordic trainer? Is that static Nordic walking?

Yes it builds up the heat but is sprung so not too much pressure on the knees. Side to side arms and torso give a good waist shape. I put the computer on and watch tv. and the same time otherwise it can be boring.

I do aquafit walk & yoga when able

Hi Sinderella I go to body conditioning 2 a week with my other half and also do aqua aerobics, walking and gym work, I think you have to keep moving if you can and what Ido has helped me a lot with mind and body and helped me get a grip off this horrible disease xxx

Try to get prince Sharming to take you to the ball, dance is good exercise.seriosly I swim and walk.

Regards Mike

Sinderella in reply to Matalow

ThanKS Mata low. More chance of winning the lottery than getting my prince charming to dance. And I don't even do the lottery 😃😃

I walk a lot, and do Pilates - my physio recommended Pilates.

I started off not able to do much, but every week I can do a little more, I push myself a little more and my flexibility and core strength have increased lots.

When I was first diagnosed I couldn’t walk far and it was painful - so I eased up, that was probably the worst thing to do as the less you do, the less you can do.

I have a dog now and we walk at least 5 miles a day. Exercise is good for the body and the mind (and the dog!).

Sinderella in reply to JEM95

Maybe I'll try pilates.

Weirdly to say, exercise is really useful for us! Start with something REALLY light. Then try to progress. I had to gain muscles (still have) because i was slightly underweight because i layed in bed for 6 months + i couldn’t really walk that much when i kind of started to get better. The conseguence was that i lost all my already weak muscles. Now it seems i got to a good point. I started with some exercises my physiotherapist gave me, so my advice is: don’t go directly to a gym because often personal trainers aren’t really aware of the damage they can do. Or if you want to, inform yourself and go to a GOOD gym.

(I just read that they suggested you to swim and while it’s the best exercise you can do, i didn’t like it at all so i just want you to know that you’re not forced to do that and there are plenty of things you can do :) ! )

Sinderella in reply to sarayar

I do swim a little but I don't like it much so not enough to do any good. Perhaps I'll just try a bit of exercise in the water

Walking is better than doing nothing, I'm conscious of looking after my heart and lungs, even though my ankles are painful.

aquarobics and 5:2 diet for me .

Hi Sinderella,

Good to meet you on here! Well as we age we tend to pack on the weight no matter what, even people that are not on meds will tell you that.

I exercise regularly because I refuse to be beaten and be a cripple.

I have active RA, everything hurts and is inflamed, I have a really bad hip... I’m 37 years old.

Actually exercise helps me move and be flexible. I feel that because for a while when I got diagnosed I stopped being active, I lost a lot of muscle mass and flexibility. Now I exercise at least 3 Times a week, going to cardio, yoga and pilates classes. On the days I’m unable to get to the classes I download a video of a work out and do it at my own pace at home.

When I have a flare up, I rest for a few days and go again. I am doing it because It helps with my mood and as I said afterwards I feel I am all warmed up and I can move better . If you go to the gym or pick up any kind of sport / exercise just let the instructor know you have RA and which areas hurt so they can modify your workout and always listen to your body . If it starts to click or hurt don’t do that exercise just so another modification and never give up. Since my joints are inflamed I need to build and condition the muscles around those so I can walk not just now but later on in life as well.

Some forms of yoga are really stressful for the joints but Pilates is the best ! Pilates started out as physical therapy for people with injuries and it got so popular everyone is doing it to improve posture and get long lean muscles. I do cardio and toning on good days only...

I did notice I lost a bit of weight and I am toned , and it’s good to remember that this is a marathon not a sprint, and I feel happier and less in pain when I do move my body!

Good luck!

I tend to do a lot of walking, having a dog I don't have a lot of choice, but I also cycle ( depending on the weather) and occasionally swim. Many exercises can be painful at first, and you do tend to ache the next day in the early stages, but to not exercise would put more stress on your joints in the long run if you carry too much access weight

Swimming is the recommended exercise after having hip replacement by physiotherapists as long as you don't swim beaststroke. I have a friend who is partially paralysed down the left hand side his leg is permanently straight and he has to open his left hand which is in a permanent fist with his right hand. He swims better than me dragging his left leg along.

I hav recently bought one of the mini cycles where you sit on a chair and peddle. I have found it really good as I couldn't manage to use the usual exercise bike. The first time I used it I could only manage just over a minute and could hardly move for pain the next day. Now, just over a week later, I am doing five minutes and not in so much pain.

Thanks holly-willow I think I might get one of those.

Hi I have found that Zumba is great I do this a couple of times a week also just started 1/2 hour swimming every other day which is good for joints you just have to do something that you enjoy good luck x

I have bought a recumbent exercise bike less stress on the knees and also swim a bit but suffer badly with exhaustion so have to pace myself which does make losing weight a Long process. Still battle on. I have ra and osteo in my knees.


Hey Sinderella,

I see you have some challenges re exercise. If you have access to a pool/beach (depending upon the weather) one of the best exercises is walking in water, if you can get to waist/chest high. Good exercise because it’s resistance training and you weight is supported, so your joints aren’t too stressed. I’m agree about yoga. Might seem “gentle” but you can certainly get your heart rate up, plus ot’s Good for flexibility and strength. Hope things progress for you, cheers Deb :)

Hi Sinderella

Without exercise I would need to take painkillers 24-7. With exercise I don't. Apart from a wee bit of Tiger Balm on my left knee at night.

Best place for me to exercise is in the water. I go to an aqua class 3 times a week and I also swim after the class. It also allows me to get aerobic, something I would struggle with on land.

In the water I return to the person I was pre RA!!!


I swim up to 20 lengths M-Fri when I can, painfully slow but it helps me and my lungs too, despite flaring ankles wrists hands n feed. got my lung capacity back to 90% after mtx did for them. try it, please - swimming. I'm 75 with now a t12 fracture but will go on for as long as i can. xx

Sinderella in reply to GranAmie

Well done you. I'm impressed. However, swimming is really not for me. I will continue with my brisk walking and look for something else until I find Something I enjoy.

GranAmie in reply to Sinderella

FEET not 'feed' LOL - not just hands n wrists but fingers tooooo, x

Pilates has helped me. I go to a seated class run by a Physio. She adapts exercises to each individual. I started with one to one classes when I was really bad. And could hardly walk and was loosing my balance. I was terrified of falling as I would not have been able to get up. Am now able to do easy floor classes!

Hi Sinder, I know I'm late to reply to your question, but wanted to put in my 2 cents. I, too, gained a bit of weight over the last 6 years. A good part of it was from steroids, fatique and not exercising enough, and drinking alcohol to ease the pain. Throw in my age (68) and I was fighting a difficult battle. I tried the Whole30 diet which is pretty much along the lines of Paleo. It's a difficult diet, but I was trying to determine if anything I was eating was contributing to my RA pain. The diet really opened my eyes to how much processed food I was eating and how much I was drinking. I cut out the processed food, gluten, and vodka and lost 15 pounds (about a stone). Joined a gym and started doing water aerobics. I will be starting water zumba in a couple of weeks. Biggest hurdle is age and loss of muscle. Do some "googling" to find out how much less you have to eat after 50. I found a chart that said that to lose a pound to 1 1/2 pounds a week, I had to stick to around 1200 calories a day. So far, I have lost 25 pounds. Wow - I didn't mean for this to go on so long. I really just started out to say that walking alone did not work for me and adding the water workout and cutting calories did. It's hell getting older and having chronic pain!

Thanks for your 2 cents. I know what you say is true. I know in my heart the only way to lose the weight is to reduce calorie intake. But knowing and doing are not the same. I have a few other issues in my life at the moment but managing to stay positive. I think cutting out my food pleasures just now would be a step too far. 😆😆 the exercise question was more for general wellbeing than weight loss. I know it makes you feel better when you do it and want to try something new.

Cycle everywhere, the only problem is gripping the handlebars but I make myself cycle ten miles every afternoon. May not lose weight but great for the legs and cardiovascular. The main thing is to keep moving and keeping he blood oxygenated.

Nessa28 in reply to juneann

I loved to cycle but if I do I can't sit down for days . Unfortunately my sciatic nerve goes through a muscle not under it so if the muscle gets aggravated so does the sciatica . Also as already said I can't hold the handle bars now . I even brought a exercise bike years ago and that killed me . It's sitting on the landing with bits draped over it . Tai chi is definitely worth trying and dance and sort I saw some active ladies and men at a strolling class . Not to hard going music to sing to calories to burn of gently . Xx

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