The Gym- fitness classes

I was wondering if anyone was an avid fitness finatic, til diagnosed with RA.

I was - weight training, cardio, Yoga and Pilates along with power walking.

I do not have the energy or the power to do any at the moment- having troubles with hands, so lifting weight is out of the question.grrrrrr

I am intrested in your opinions?

Is excersise available to RA sufferers?

I know gentle excersise is recomennded- but mine was hardcore.

I feel cheated since my condition has deteriorated

Caroline x

24 Replies

tai chi, aqua aerobics.I have to be careful with my hands and wrists too!, I do an adapted on "the ball "class which is good for core stability when my symptons are quite good, I have been having knee issues recently. over doing exercise bike?. A lot of yoga is hard on the hands I found this a problem but a good teacher can adapt things.. any way a new yoga class I tried which seemed to involve a lot of lying on the floor under a blanket relaxing x


That sound good for me at the mo- how im feeling anyway.

I dont fancy swimming as I put on weight due to my hypothyroid- still struggling to shift the weight- hence my heavy training schedual -which is out of the question at present.

I love using free weights, but its impossible due to the hands and wrists.

How did you find you Yoga class?

I use DVDs at home. I have a library of fitness DVDs.



I found it relaxing x


Hi Caroline. I was the opposite of you and when the RA came on a year ago I was obese after years of being a sedentary artist and overeating. I'm now 2 and three quarter stone lighter and aiming to lose another 2 over the coming year. At first I was in so much pain and worry that I lost my appetite and now I just eat what I need and no more. I walk the dog most days for about an hour and do an average of 40 minutes aerobic exercise a day plus I go to tai chi weekly.

At first I was paranoid about walking up and down stairs when my knees were sore (apart from when they were so bad I couldn't!) or walking the dog or doing exercises that involved my hands and wrists. But once the pain has become even slightly tolerable after flares I've decided to ignore it and just push myself a to at least walk the dog every day or do some step aerobics and work my arms out with some light weights and hands with a stress ball daily.

My experience so far is that the more I push myself each day (time is a factor though) i continue to lose weight and have only had small twinges and the odd mild flare up in my knees and feet and shoulders since October when I begun exercising in earnest. My hands are definitely better for using the stress ball and on days where I forget or don't find time they are always a bit more swollen and stiff. The RA hasn't gone away of course and I did have one pretty nasty flare about 3 weeks ago - the stiffness is still about in my knees and my feet get achy and sore if I've been sitting still for too long but on the whole I do honestly believe that between the exercise, the eating much less and very healthily and the MTX I'm keeping this RA from getting it's claws on me as much as I can. I don't worry about slipping back into my old habits because RA is for life and therefore so is the new healthier me. A friend told me once she liked my attitude of if you get lemons make lemonade. I fooled her into thinking that I was more robust than I actually felt but I do try and see life this way if I can.

I know I'm very lucky to be able to be proactive and sometimes my hands get overcome with pain and tightness still (today) - but it doesn't usually last too long and I certainly don't worry that exercise or my work as an embroidery artist is going to make things worse anymore. Life's too short! Hope this helps. TT x

Ps nice to have a name for you at last.


2 & 3/4 stone! My word, that's brilliant - I'm turning a pale shade of green at the thought of it. Or perhaps orange since I'm still firmly in the orange band on the weight chart.

I know the physio has been helping you build up carefully, but please take care as if you exercise without having built up the surrounding muscle etc, or when you are very inflamed so tendons & ligaments are overstretched, then you can damage yourself. And your poor hands have been through such a lot recently, that would be awful to go backwards. Px


Yes it is quite amazing Polly I know - and I am a bit obsessed with it. I would say I have to be careful not to go the other way but the thing is I was almost 5 stone over my ideal body weight for my height, frame and age when the RA kicked off so I'm only just over half way there still!

The GP was testing me for diabetes too which is in my immediate family. The turning point came when he phoned to tell me that my glucose level was up and I needed a proper diabetes test now. I was so angry with myself because I knew that if I'd got diabetes then I only had myself to blame for letting myself get so huge. When he phoned again and said I was all clear for diabetes but had a positive for RA I decided there and then to change my ways while I still could.

Also had a horrible experience in a supermarket just after this when I was looking for the gluten free produce to start the new diet. My knees were awful at the time and I asked an assistant to show me. She said "this way" and walked off and I limped and propelled myself after her and lost her. She came back to where I was hobbling along looking up the aisles and apologised, but when I got into the car 30 mins later I wept at the idea that this was the new me.

This morning I was planning to go on the nintendo wii fit for an hour but after a whole day of embroidering yesterday for the first time in a while, both my hands are seriously puffed up - fingers swollen up like sausages with knuckles red hot and raised - so you are right Polly - I need to beware my obsessional streak and maintain some sense of balance. Exercise can be as compulsive as making artwork can and my hands are rapidly becoming the fall guys for both!



I sure do admire your attitude, Tilda! You can be an incentive to many others, even if loosing weight is not an issue.

Tai Chi seems to be the most adaptable for arthritis people, as many of the moves can be done while sitting. the ones I find I can do are the strengthening ones given to me by the Physio, before and after knee replacements. My Ortho surgeon ordered them, and he was so pleased with my rehab after.

I do the recumbent bike every morning, with my coffee and while watching the morning shows. Usually pedal for an hour, using up 200 calories, with the tension recently increased. I am desperate to keep my legs strong. I am afraid if I ever could not walk, that would be the end of my lifestyle as I know it.

My son and daughter-in-law gave me this bike several years ago, and it is cool. Can be programmed at various levels, will tell you when to speed up and for how long, then cool down, etc.

Anyways, good for you, girl! Keep on inspiring the rest of us. Attitude is really important for rehab! L. xx


Hi Tilda- You have done great well done you

I feel sure I will get my weights back out once the new medication has kicked in- I was on Methatrexate -4 weeks ago I stopped taking it im on Sulfasalazine and Hydroxychloroquinne

I have to be patient, but the trouble is Im NOT.

Take care xXX


I have been wondering the same thing. I'm trying to shift a couple of stone and find exercising tiring and painful at the moment.

Aqua Aerobics was suggested and I do get out for a walk most days, but did worry about causing more damage so was going to ask at my RA appt.

Well Done Tilda!! what an achievment, you have given me inspiration :)

Suz xx


Hi Caroline. I too was a fitness fanatic until RA came along. Walked everywhere, cycled kids to school, gym 3 times a week and the odd run at night. Since diagnoses 2 yrs ago, All I can do is swim 10 lengths! and then come home and crash for the week. Mostly I don't exercise as I try and save all my energy for my 2 beautiful children and husband. I do though, feel that due to the meds I am getting better gradually, you can only keep positive, and do what you can. Be happy. Jo x


Its heartbreaking to have to stop.

Yes I stay positive

You have to xXx


I just wanted to add that the Nintendo Wii Fit has been amazing for me. It's not rigorous like real gymns and jogging and stuff but you can do it in the privacy of home and taylor it to fit in with lifestyle and physio exercises. The boys see me on it and although they take the mick I think they are secretly really proud and often join in too with the balance games.

It has enough options that you can customize it to suit the joints that are really not so good on the day - for instance my shoulders ache a lot just now so I'm very careful about the exercising involving raised arms. I have been using the jogging and aerobic programmes for a while - especially the step aerobics which is just a very small step which I can do for 30 mins while watching the tv news. The jogging is just on the spot and I'm on carpet and rug and usually wear socks so it isn't the same impact as jogging on roads or hard surfaces because you're not actually moving or going up and down hills but it still puffs me out and according to the Wii I'm burning about 100 calories for a 20 min jog. I walk the dog too but that's more precarious with weather and dog lead which really hurts my wrists and fingers so the Wii has been a bit of a life saver when the weather's been bad.

I understand your point of view Jo re putting energy into children but they need you to look after yourself in the long term too. There was an amazing story on radio 4 this week about a woman who had an accident while hill walking and became paraplegic. She told of how she had been a medical write off in terms of being able to walk but she was totally determined and got herself out of the wheelchair and walking eventually. Of course this isn't the same as RA but the bit that inspired me was that she said it took all of her energy and time to get out of the wheelchair and her children were completely neglected (I think she was a single mum/ widow) and had to cook and look after themselves for years but they were so proud of her for what she had overcome and knew exactly what it had taken to get her to that point of being fully mobile again. This made me feel a bit less guilty for the amount of time RA takes up for me just now just keeping on an even keal and not letting it bring me down and I often worry I'm neglecting my family. But after listening to the woman I have decided it's worth it!



Hi everyone. I don't post much as I feel so low at the moment but I have reached a point where I have to take a look at diet and exercise seriously for the first time since my diagnosis last November. I only have a couple of stone to lose which may not seem much but I really hope it will help my joints. I have OA in my knees but the main RA problems are more or less identical to yours Tilda - my hands are so painful and stiff. My Sulfa doesn't seem to have improved things after 12 weeks and I don't know what they will decide to do next but I need to find a way of exercising which won't set me back. I don't go out much at all apart from work - I have withdrawn into myself lately - so I want to exercise at home. I have a rowing machine and exercise bike but wonder if the bike will make my knees worse? I am going to try the rower later today as an experiment - I love it as it is a great all-round toner - and will maybe be able to judge by the state of my hands tomorrow. I would love to start using toning tables as i know people who have benefitted massively by using them but it means a trip to the gym which i know I would soon give up on. Hope you all have as pain-free weekend as possible.

Julie x


Hi Julie,

In answer re: the exercise bike and knees: Pedalling will strengthen the tendons, ligaments and muscles around the knee and legs, so it is beneficial. It's like Physio tells us, time your pain meds to take them about an hour before a work-out, then start slowly and work up to increasing time by 5 mins every 3 days. The aim is to do atleast 30 mins a day, but you can do more if you are tolerating it OK.

The joints will have very little pressure while on the bike, so it is an excellent way to keep the joints moving without the added pressure of walking.

Once you have been doing the bike every day, you will realize how much stronger your legs feel when walking! Good luck, just start slow :)


If you can locate the bike and a TV set together, it helps to not be concentrating on every move you make, time goes by much easier and faster.

I have also heard of DVD s being available that are like a bike ride down a country road, so if you can add the DVD player to the TV..just imagine !


I think you have it sussed out Loret - and for myself I have never found that exercising has made my arthritic symptoms any worse although at the start a year ago I did find playing badminton was where it all begun - but then I was 5 stone overweight too which is a big load for a small frame like mine to carry about let alone lunging and hurtling about a hard court with poor wrists flicking and smashing etc. I have wondered if I should ask my physio if can start again but I do remember being told that racket sports are the worst thing for wrists and mine are only just starting to feel better again so OH says it's not worth the risk although I really miss it and would love to play again now I'm lighter and fitter.

I do get quite sore feet just now on the undersides/ the balls of my feet but I find that the pain goes away if I move about and walk but gets much more pronounced when I'm still for any length of time - same with knees too. Moving keeps things working better for me and it stops things stiffening up.


Loret, thank you so much for the advice - I haven't seen a Physiotherapist yet though I want to ask about the possibility at my appointment next week as i am really struggling with my hands, wrists and shoulders at work. I think splints might help but maybe it's Occupational Health who help with those,

Thanks again, Julie x


Carolyn, I walk with a friend twice a week in the mall-before the shops open. Walking makes my whole body feel better; feet, back, brain, depression, social, etc. I find that the more exercise I do, I want that much more-from the energy that I get from it (& from my friend). I don't do much with my hands/wrists though-they aren't strong at all and I tend to get tendonitis when I use them too much.

Do everything in moderation, and use joint protection.



Thanks Christine.

Im very sore and inflamed at the moment. Tomorrow im calling in the hospital to see if they can give me the dreaded injection.

If you read my other post- needle phobia, you will know how scared I am (im a big woose) but I am also in alot of pain.

one has to give!

Take care xx


Never managed to respond to needle question (scared just reading/writing the word) but I try to concentrate totally on wiggling the toes on one foot up & down, or my fingers if the jab is in my foot or knee - wherever's furthest away basically. I find it really helps and have managed lots now without biting the doctor or nurse.


Hi helix,

What do you do for pain relief?

I did actually call the hospital at 8am this morning,I had bottled up the courage, but the guy on the reception said they would not give me the injection without first seeing my Thyroid blood results?(I have underactive thyroid)

Now my finger (index) feels rather strange- kind of stiff and not willing to move freely :-(

I had to giggle at the last bit you wrote about biting the doc hehehe


For injections I don't do any anti-pain things first, although sometimes ask if they'd use the cold spray thing first which numbs your bum. Generally I've found that if I can concentrate on my wiggling then it's not actually unbearably painful.

It's weird tho' - I was just about to write down how my wiggling technique means I've managed to have the fluid sucked out of my knees and steroids popped in without problems, and just thinking about it made me feel more nauseous than actually having it done. How daft is that!


Hi helix

I got the appointment for Friday, the nurse was rather stern with me when I asked for the numbing cream

She does not belive in it and says that she does not belive it works.

I found myself saying I was pathetic

I cant help my fear of needles.-

your brave having the fluid sucked out,

ugh Id collapse :-(


I was running 10k regularly and half-marathon once or twice a year. I was running on treadmill and doing some weight work. I began to get pains in shoulders, wrists and hamstrings and wondered why gym was getting harder. Following my diagnosis of RA around 2 years ago I still go to gym 3 times a week. I am out running regularly and at the moment am training for Edinburgh Marathon. My symptoms are not controlled and I have been on steroids,Dmards and anti-TNF...nothing has so far suited me greatly but I am so stubborn. I can't do gym in the mornings now as I am too stiff but can manage after painkillers and an hour or so out of bed. I force myself on treadmill and after 20 mins I start to loosen up. Sometimes my wife thinks I am crazy and doing myself more damage but as long as I am able I will continue....


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