Six-thirty a.m. I sit up, struggle from under the covers and roll out of bed. I hobble, my joints stiff and achy, to the bathroom. During morning ablutions, I gaze at my knuckles. They’re only a little swollen this morning, I note. I flex my hands. Only a little stiff and a little sore, too. This is nice.
As I get dressed, I look at my body in the full-length mirror (that evil thing!). I make a face at my wide hips. I know I haven’t gained any weight! In fact, since the middle of August, I’ve lost eight whole pounds. Maybe, I grumble, my hips look extra-wide this morning because they’re swollen. My here-again, gone-again hip bursitis is definitely here again this morning. Still, those teensy bursae over my hip-joints probably aren’t swollen enough to make my already-wide hips look even wider. I can thank my Scandinavian ancestors and 30 years worth of chronic cookie-binges for that.
Mondays are my weigh-in days, so with my breath held I step onto the bathroom scale. To my disappointment it shows the same weight as Monday a week ago. I sigh again. OK, Saturday night I splurged and had fish and chips instead of salad for dinner when Mom and I went out. But I only ate half the meal—and I’d been mindful and disciplined all week up to that point. The fish and chips undoubtedly put me over my daily calorie-quota, but I’d gone right back to it Sunday.
Waiting for my breakfast egg to boil, I think about exercise. Because exercise
can jar the body into burning off fat and help sink the number on the scale. I know this.
But of all the things I’ve done to improve my health over the years—including tossing out the smokes—exercise has always been the hardest. Like others who battle rheumatoid arthritis, it seems like a lot of the time I’m just plain too sore and achy to exercise. And when I’m not, I’m afraid to rock the boat. If I exercise, I convince myself, I’ll just bring on a new flare. It’s a catch-22.
But I know better. I only trigger new flares when my enthusiasm overflows my good sense. If I stick to gentle exercise, like stretching, using resistance bands and walking—not too far, at first—I’m fine. When I do that each day, exercise jump-starts my weight loss. I know, because I’ve done it.
There are lots of RA-friendly types of exercise that not only increase muscle strength (which helps to support the joints), but also promote heart health, safe weight loss, balance and even mental health. Click this slide-show at Healthline.com: http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/8-essential-everyday-exercises-for-RA-pain for a great overview.