Regular exercise can be a daunting concept for many- particularly those that have Psoriatic arthritis, or other conditions affecting the joints. Watching people at the gym in aerobics style classes, or seeing people pounding the pavement on their runs may result in a few concerns- and perhaps some sympathy pain for those who suffer from joint pain. Joint pain can become quite debilitating for those with Psoriatic arthritis, so it is understandable to be a little worried as to what type of exercise will be helpful as opposed to harmful. We also understand that it can be incredibly frustrating to feel that you can’t exercise or be active because of your condition.
The main thing to understand when it comes to exercise though, is that it doesn’t always have to be high intensity, involve heavy weights or be at high speed to achieve great results. With this in mind, exercise is actually a great and safe way to help you manage Psoriatic arthritis. (in conjunction with treatment from your Rheumatologist)
So how can exercise help you?
Resistance training can help your joints
In many conditions affecting the joints, a great way to reduce the loading through the affected joints is by strengthening the muscles around the joints. Resistance-based exercises that improve strength in specific areas are a fantastic way to create more support around the joint by stabilizing and strengthening the structures around it- e.g. strengthening your thigh muscles to help you move with more ease, and to make stairs easier to tackle!
Mobility is a great low impact option
Mobility exercises are also a fantastic way to ensure that the body is able to keep moving, and that it can maintain a healthy range of motion. This is also a great option for during a flare, or when fatigue may be a factor. Mobility exercises like a simple “Bow and arrow” are a great way to release tension, loosen up muscles, and to keep moving.
Improve your tolerance to do things you enjoy
We also know that regular tailored exercise can improve your tolerance for your day to day activities and the stuff you enjoy! By building up your fitness and strength gradually over time, you’ll be able to achieve more. Perhaps you’ll finally be able to clean out that cluttered spare room or even clean out the shed! Even on those painful days, the essentials are perhaps achievable because you have a good base. For example, if you can normally lift a whole basket of wet laundry quite comfortably, on a “bad day” you may split it into 2 baskets; whereas if you have a lower baseline, and normally only lift half a basket, on a “bad day,” you may find that only a few items in the basket is too much to manage.
Top Tips to exercising with Psoriatic Arthritis
1. Give yourself options!
There is not one single way to exercise, and it’s nice to keep this in mind when going through a flare, or when joint pain is really impacting you. Having options of what you could do as exercise stops the mindset of “I can’t do anything,” and can keep you going when things get hard. Low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, pilates or cycling could be an alternative to your usual gym classes or bootcamps. Stretching and mobility exercises are also fantastic ways to keep the body moving, whilst giving the joints a bit of relief. There are so many ways to exercise, and it’s important to find safe and enjoyable exercises that work for you.
2. It’s not the Olympics
Unless you’re training for the Olympics, you don’t need to be pushing yourself to the limits each and every day with exercise…and even then, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have light, heavy and rest days in their schedule!
During a flare, or when the joints are particularly sensitive to loading, it is sensible to lower the load and intensity of exercises to reduce the amount of inflammation and irritation in the joints. Recognising that some days you may be able to run, or deadlift 100kg, and others some simple mobility exercises may be what your body needs is an important part of managing your condition. Having a lower intensity option as part of training is a great way to look after your joints, and just think- you’re doing what the world’s most successful athletes are doing!
3. Keep on top of the basics!
Psoriatic arthritis affects people differently, and because of this, everyone’s treatment and management is different. Regardless of this, to keep on top of your condition, and to ensure your body responds well to exercise, it is important to stay on top of the basics, like sleep, diet, medication, and managing your energy levels. It’s understandable that life gets in the way sometimes, however if you don’t stay on top of these key lifestyle factors, it is likely that managing your Psoriatic Arthritis will be more difficult.
Exercise is a great way to help you manage your Psoriatic Arthritis- If you are unsure of what exercises are right for you, or how best you can use exercise to manage your health, a professional such as a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist with an interest in Rheumatology can help you to come up with a plan and get you moving.