Exercising with active RA: It's been about 10 months... - NRAS


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Exercising with active RA

Gottarelax profile image
31 Replies

It's been about 10 months now since my RA symptoms came crashing in and I was completely crippled within 4 weeks. Once I was given Naproxen and a little steroid boost I got to the stage that I was able to go for a 30 min walk (slow and painful but doable). I'm now waiting for MTX to kick in and am stuck with limited movement and pain in all my big joints. An MRI of my hips thankfully showed no damage to the joints but very inflamed tendons and I suspect that it's tendonitis that is the culprit for the large joint issues generally. My rheumy hasn't mentioned any rehab but I wonder whether there is more that I could be doing to help myself. I keep walking daily but am not doing anything to aid general joint mobility. Problem is I don't know where to start. If I look at even exercises for people with arthritis, I can't do things like raise my arms, lie on the floor or kneel down so a lot of them are non-starters. Is this the sort of thing that physiotherapy services help with? Should my RA be under control before embarking on new exercising?

31 Replies
Deeb1764 profile image

my Rheumy and chap who I saw re spine both said swimming no matter how gentle just being in water treading and a little swim would be good. As the spine specialist said any movement is good and with Ra complications can be tough. Do what you can when you can to keep the muscles strong!

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to Deeb1764

Thank you, for some reason I'd forgotten about swimming. I'd have to find the right pool though as when I last tried, I couldn't get back out of the pool as I couldn't use the steps and the life guard had to help 😊

Potatos profile image
Potatos in reply to Gottarelax

A lot of pools have a disability hoist that can get you in and out.

KittyJ profile image

I think this is something to ask your rheumy or nurse once you’re settled on mtx but personally if I’m flaring I try to keep moving ( usually just a walk) but don’t overdo things until it settles down. Learning your limits is key and pacing yourself (easier said than done 😊) NRAS do a publication on exercise which might give you more guidance.


Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to KittyJ

Thanks for the link. I thought they'd have a useful publication but couldn't find it.

mads1 profile image

Hi Gottarelax (love your name) I think you need to wait a bit, let everything settle down before doing any physio at all. If you can do exercises in water or swimming that would be good as you are not putting pressure on your poor joints. Totally understand where you are coming from, I feel I should be be doing so much more. Good luck

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to mads1

It's hard to be patient when you go from pretty fit and active and feel your muscles just turning to jelly. My name was a reminder, especially at the time when I first was diagnosed and in denial.

vonniesims profile image

Aqua aerobics are good to help joints moving without weight bearing or walking in the pool

Gottarelax profile image

Ooh Aqua aerobics is a great idea! I'll look into that.

Mmrr profile image

Gentle swimming is a great way to keep the joints moving, but do take care with aquarobics. Classes can be more strenuous than you think a d there is water resistance to cope this too. My NHS physiotherapist warned against starting these classes when I was very inflammed.

nanny_bee71 profile image

It is so difficult when you are used to be active and fit. I struggle with swimming as I don't have enough kick power in my legs to keep buoyant and my shoulder locks (I used to swim daily and do aquarobics). However, on the recommendation of both my rheumy and the physio, I purchased an exercise bike - non weight bearing and gentle cycling seems to have helped. But oh how I wish I could be out there walking the coast of Cornwall like I used to until 6 years ago.

greynot profile image
greynot in reply to nanny_bee71

I know what you're saying nanny bee. I live on the edge of the Lake District and I soooo miss walking even the gentle fells

KASHMIRI1 profile image
KASHMIRI1 in reply to greynot

I live in the New Forest and used to ride all day for miles. Then when l lost my beloved Arab horse Kashmiri l used to walk for long periods of time. Now being reduced to walking up and down the garden path drives me nuts.

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to KASHMIRI1

I feel your pain. I never had my own horse but do like to ride. I should have known that something was wrong when I found it harder and harder to dismount and my knees were in agony during a ride...I really hope that one day I'll be able to get on a horse again!

KASHMIRI1 profile image
KASHMIRI1 in reply to Gottarelax

Fingers crossed that you will. I remember the unpleasantness of dismounting when your feet are freezing cold. Almost like an electric shock.

Mmrr profile image
Mmrr in reply to nanny_bee71

Oh walking my passion. Nothing can replace the sense of freedom and well being that it brings. I miss it too.

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to nanny_bee71

I could walk all day. At the time that I became ill, we were in the process of buying a house on the Cleveland Way and I had dreams of long walks. Unfortunately I can't get down the few steps from the house on to the pathway...I cried when I first tried but am determined to make it one day. Coastal walking is heavenly!

Scottishlad profile image

If you have a a hydrotherapy pool near you it could be a good option.

I used my local hydrotherapy pool to help with my recovery from a bike accident. The pools usually have hoists which can help with access.

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to Scottishlad

I'm quite rural and finding that I'll have to travel a long way to get to anything better than a basic pool. Do you have to have a referral to use a hydrotherapy pool or is it something that you can just pay to use?

Angjoplin profile image

My rhuemy said to do walking in the pool. As I used to be an avid swimmer before I thought I'd feel like a right donkey. But I've been and done it and noticed many people doing it. Guess I'd just never looked about before. Our local council pool has something called a relaxed swim on 2 nights a week which is perfect.

Maureengibson profile image

I find hydrotherapy helpful, once I had the exercises, I would attend our local pool, which is a leisure pool rather than lane pool, so is heated quite warm thankfully. If hydrotherapy isn’t an option then swimming. I have AS which results in enthesitis where tendons attach to bone, my specialist always says to still find some gentle exercise to do even in a flare. Hope it settles soon

PSAWarrior28 profile image

Sorry to hear about your situation. I started doing aqua aerobics which has helped keep me mobile and my health care professionals have approved. You can also try chair pilates or yoga - loads of material on YouTube.

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to PSAWarrior28

So I decided to Youtube chair pilates and found 'silver sneakers'. OK, I'm disappointed that in my early 50s I'm looking at 'senior' exercises but I've got to pull up my big girl pants and feel fortunate that at least there is something I can do. Here's a link for anyone following for exercise ideas...


Boxerlady profile image

Another vote for Aquafit and swimming. At my pool there are shallower steps at one corner of the pool which you might find easier and several of the people in my aqua classes obviously find walking difficult but are fine in the pool. If you wear a bouancy belt for Aquafit (provided for my classes) it is very low-impact as is swimming.

wilbertjellyfish profile image

I walk, every morning, some days I go faster and get further than others. I was swimming but had to stop when I got pneumonia. I'm planning to get to back. Last summer I got an electric bicycle and went out a bit. I used to love yoga but like you say getting down and up isn't easy. Apparently there is chair yoga but not near me

Gottarelax profile image
Gottarelax in reply to wilbertjellyfish

I've been toying with an electric bike. Not sure I can cope with a saddle yet...I sold my racing bike recently when I realised that I was never going to feel confident on it again. 🙁

wilbertjellyfish profile image
wilbertjellyfish in reply to Gottarelax

I'm five years ahead of you. I loved cycling (hybrid bike..not racing) before and going out with the kids. It was more them wanting me to go that spurred me on. I went to an independent guy who let me try out different ones at his show room and then I got a second hand one he had on loan for a weekend. I bought it as I liked it and it was about half the price of a new one

Scottishlad profile image
Scottishlad in reply to Gottarelax

An electric bike is certainly an option. One of my 3 bikes is an electric one. It has large racks front and back and I do most of my shopping with it. I have an on-going issue with breathlessness and I've not really used the other bikes recently. Instead I've used the e-bike but turned the power up a notch compared to normal.

I am careful to avoid icy conditions. Side roads and cycle paths don't usually get gritted and the risks from a fall are too high.

Tiverland profile image

ditto. I was the same. I spoke with my consultant and he put me in touch with the RA physio. I never looked back. Yes I still get the occasional flare. Fatigue is the worse. But I can now go for a walk. Exersize at the gym. Swim ( which I found the hardest) do my garden ( in small doses). So talk to your consultant and I hope you get a physio as good as mine Good luck. It will take time but be patient.

stbernhard profile image

If you are lucky enough to find a physio who knows what RA is then that would be an excellent place to start, or any physio full stop. What about swimming? Can you do that? Swimming helped my joint mobility in the first months and years of living with RA. It's great that you are actively seeking help and not giving up. Brilliant!

oldtimer2 profile image

When I first started improving, I found that six session in the hospital hydrotherapy pool (via physiotherapy )were just marvellous, in getting me mobile again.

Unfortunately, due to staff shortages, my local hydrotherapy pool has now closed. I did manage to find a private hospital with a hydro pool, expensive, but I found it really useful after Covid to get me going again. Then aquafit classes at the Leisure Centre re-started and I was able to transfer to that (on Direct Debit this cost me £21 per month for two or three sessions a week - marvellous!).

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