Friday, April 2, 2010
To Exercise Or Not To Exercise
I've been trying to figure out desperately whether or not I should be exercising and how much and what exactly I should/should not be doing. I have RA in multiple joints and am on Enbrel/Methotrexate but have pain/aches many days. However, from what I can tell, other than maybe my little left toes, I don't seem to have inflammation anymore.
Back when I was first diagnosed in January, my rheumatologist said exercise was OK as long as it didn't hurt. Using that definition, exercise is pretty much out right now for the most part (and I have to admit, other than that brief question/answer, I haven't discussed it with her since then).
But there's a lot of controversy on the subject.
Many sites on the internet that I can find recommend gentle stretching exercises or yoga. This WebMD link mentions that when regular exercise are painful for joints, you can try isometric exercises. But for someone like me, who has many joints that are painful most of the time, that means cardio exercise that actually gets your heart rate up is pretty hard to achieve. And that's exactly the sort of workout I need right now. I've been having trouble sleeping, and from past experience I know that cardio workouts will help with that and also help me feel better mentally.
Swimming is also recommended for those with RA, but that means getting to a pool and, for me, time is of the essence. When you're as tired as I am already, the thought of getting up at some ungodly hour to drive to a pool is not appealing, to say the least. Not when the gym I belong to is right across the street and offers readily accessible exercise options...
On a recent Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior post on exercise, DadwithRA commented that he thought that the arthritis community in North America takes a more conservative viewpoint toward exercise than they do in the Netherlands.
I've been doing research trying to track down some scientific data to try to explain the difference in tack taken re exercise between the two communities. Here's a link that outlines a study undertaken by a doctor at Leiden University in the Netherlands that I found very interesting.
And here's another more detailed study.
I've been trying to find more links, but, most of the Dutch ones are, well obviously, in Dutch! If I find more in English, I'll add them to this post.
It seems to me odd that there should be two such differing viewpoints. Then again, maybe not. Half the time (and that's just a turn of phrase, not a scientific measure!) doctors can't even decide if someone has RA. So why should it surprise me that they can't agree on whether or not exercise is good or not for someone who has RA? And "active" RA is another thing, and how you define that "active" RA is yet another...So you see the problems that arise.
All I know is, I feel like crap from the RA anyway. Now I'm really feeling like crap mentally, too, and the lack of sleep from that is wearing on me. So, as much as I'm really a lazybones and am not that into exercise and never have been, I love the way it makes me feel, I love feeling fit and strong, and I'm going to do my damnedest to get to the gym and workout as much as I can (without straining my sad, unworked, sorry-ass muscles!) over the next two weeks while I'm off work.
I'll report back and let you know how it goes and how I feel! Consider it my own personal little RA study!