Exercise and RA: Part One

By Marianna Boyce

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue surrounding the joints. It sees these healthy cells as foreign invaders, ultimately causing painful immobility and deformity if left untreated.

Symptoms of RA darkened my doorstep the summer of 2016, and honestly speaking, it’s been one of the best excuses I’ve had to avoid physical activity for the past few years. Don’t get me wrong. RA is a great excuse, but my itty-bitty pity-party was getting a little ridiculous.

I have RA—RA doesn’t have me.

Still trying to regain what’s considered normal for me (pre-RA,) I wondered if reviving my exercise routine was even possible without creating more problems for myself. I was scared of raw, unbridled RA pain, so I was skeptical. If you’re struggling with any type of arthritis or mobility issue, I’m with you. The thought of physical activity is daunting, but new light has recently started to change my mind on the subject.

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According to Google, “motion is lotion” is a phrase coined by an orthopedic surgeon. He stated that movement would increase the lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) transporting nutrients to the joints. This fluid is vital in keeping them healthy. I’ve never been to an orthopedist before, but my rheumatologist would agree that movement is essential to maintaining independence and mobility for those suffering from chronic pain.

I know—it’s much easier said than done. My sister Cindy suffers from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, so together, we’re either a force to be reckoned with or a hot mess.

Cindy and I are extremely close. I’m usually at her house every Saturday afternoon for much-needed sister time— especially in the summertime.

After lounging around her pool on a hot South Carolina day this past summer, we laughed and joked with each other about how out of shape we were. Sisters can do this—and we did so as we mindlessly consumed unhealthy poolside snacks and sugary drinks. We had an epiphany that very day. Our itty-bitty pity-party had to officially end—no more excuses.

It was time to get moving, but not for the reasons many people may think. Our reasons go much deeper than physical appeal. We just want to feel better.

We started researching the benefits of Water Exercise and Aqua Aerobics. What we found was quite encouraging, and at first glance, exactly what we needed.

  • Water supports the body, reducing stress on joints and muscles.
  • It helps build strength and endurance.
  • Water pressure helps lessen the strain on the heart as it assists in moving blood around the body.
  • It provides for a low impact, high-energy workout.
  • Water allows for a greater range of motion with the freedom to move with little to no pain.
  • It helps prevent overheating allowing for a longer workout.
  • It’s fun! (How many people can say that about their exercise routine?)

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The more Cindy and I read about it, the more our interest was piqued, so the following Saturday, we found some YouTube videos and had a different kind of pool party.

The following day, we felt the workout “burn,” but it also felt fantastic. If water makes it easier to exercise, count us in, but what would we do when she closed her pool for the fall and winter months? This is where the courage to try something new came into play. For two moody women in their fifties, change isn’t always easy, but we made the collaborative decision to end our itty-bitty pity-party once and for all. It’s that decision that will potentially change our lives.

We’re a work in progress, but the struggle makes us stronger. The struggle, my friend, is part of everyone’s story. No one is exempt. We’re all in this together. What’s your story? Would this type of workout suit you?

Be on the lookout for Part Two of my “Exercise and RA” post coming soon.

**Please consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.**