Help Improve RA—in Just 20 Minutes!

By Wendy Bumgardner

Walking is a low-impact exercise that can help improve the physical and emotional health of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In fact, a brisk 20-minute walk on as many days of the week as you are able will go a long way toward improving your overall health. Walking is a low-impact exercise that can help decrease pain and help you maintain joint flexibility. Bonus: Exercise will also increase your energy, boost your self-esteem and reduce anxiety. Check with your healthcare provider before beginning any walking or exercise program.

Walking goal

A brisk pace of a 15- to 20-minute mile is a good goal, but it’s more important to walk for 20 minutes at a pace your body can stand without producing negative side effects.

What you will need:

Walking shoes. Wear supportive and well-cushioned running or fitness walking shoes. You may want to use a shoe insert with arch support and extra cushioning to protect your joints.

Clothing that allows you to move. A T-shirt and warm-up pants or shorts are ideal for freedom of movement.

A place to walk. You need to be able to walk for at least 10 minutes at a time at a brisk pace without interruption. If you have hip, knee, foot or ankle problems, avoid hills. Instead, choose a flat walking route or use a treadmill without incline. Seek asphalt or natural trails rather than concrete sidewalks to lessen impact on joints.

Walking Workout

Loosen up
If you have joint stiffness, it may take longer to warm up before an exercise. A warm shower may help. To get ready for your walk, stand up. Loosen your shoulders and neck with a few shrugs and shoulder circles. Loosen your legs and hips by marching in place for a few seconds.

Adjust your posture
Good walking posture is essential to being able to breathe deeply and move fluidly.
Stand up straight, with eyes forward and chin parallel to the ground.
Pull in your abdomen.
Tilt your hips slightly forward, tucking in your rear.
Now raise yourself up tall from your hips to the top of your head, as if a string were pulling your head up.
Relax your shoulders.
Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle.
Now you are ready to walk.

Start with an easy pace
Use the first 3 to 5 minutes of your walk to get the blood flowing and to pay attention to your walking posture. At an easy pace, you can carry on a conversation.

Speed up to a brisk pace
Consciously pick up the pace and keep it for 10 to 15 minutes. You want to attain a pace where your breathing is noticeably heavier and your heart is beating faster but you can still hold a conversation. Maintain that pace for at least 10 continuous minutes.

Cool down
Finish by walking at an easy pace for 1 to 3 minutes.

Published December 2011
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