When it comes to exercise, at some point we’ve all said or heard the age-old saying of “No Pain, No Gain” or “Feel the Burn” (Thanks Jane Fonda). The concept behind these two expressions is simple, if you’re not hurting during or after exercise, then you won’t be getting any benefit.
This notion couldn’t be further from the truth !!
When it comes to exercising with any Rheumatic or inflammatory condition, some of the discomfort felt can be associated with the condition itself. Exercising to the point of considerable discomfort is not always needed, and working to this intensity every session can often get in the way of quality progression towards your goals.
We also now have significant research which shows us that there are many benefits that can be achieved from exercise which is low to moderate intensity.
To minimise the risk of injury and exacerbation of any symptoms when exercising, I've developed a few key questions to help you determine if your current exercise program is safe and suitable for you.
Did I check with my GP/Rheumatologist if exercise was appropriate for me?
The first and most important question to ask yourself! Your team of medical professionals are the best source of knowledge when it comes to finding suitable options to help you manage your condition and health. Exercise can be prescribed for almost ANY condition, whether you have an inflammatory condition, a heart issue, or just need to lose a bit of weight – Exercise can help with everything! We also feel its an essential part of any wellness program. Start with something simple, like walking, and build up the intensity and duration gradually from there. Check out one of my previous blogs on how to get started. If you want to branch out to something more vigorous such as joining a gym or participating in sport, your medical professional will help guide you in the right direction as to who to speak to, so be sure to ask if those types of exercise are suitable for you.
Will any exercise be okay? Where do I start?
You’ve spoken to your GP and you’re all clear for exercising in a gym, so you decide to find an exercise program! The first step is seeking help to create a program that is individualised to your needs, and not grabbing the first one found on the internet. An Allied Health Professional, such as an Exercise Physiologist, will consider your past history, any medical conditions and/or injuries and conduct a movement and strength assessment to gauge your starting point in order to create the perfect program for you! Exercise Physiologists (EPs) are university-qualified professionals with the knowledge and experience to assist people with a variety of chronic and acute conditions. They’ll also take into consideration any factors that may flare your pain, or alleviate it, to help educate and develop strategies to keep you in control of your condition.
I’m doing exercise but I feel sore afterwards – am I doing it right?
After exercising, it is very common to feel a little bit of discomfort in the muscles that you worked. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS as it is commonly referred to) is caused by little tears occurring in the muscles after putting them through some movements that are either different to what you are used to, or a little harder! I appreciate this process doesn't sound overly appealing, but it’s a very common occurrence and a healthy one. It is how our muscles adapt and become stronger for the next time! DOMS can take around 48 to 72 hours to fully settle down, at which point you’ll make a full recovery and be able to return to your routine. I’ll explain a little more about DOMS in my next blog.
I really enjoy walking; can’t I just keep doing that?
Walking is a great way to start exercise – its low impact, easily accessible, and we’ve been doing it since we were toddlers! Some form of cardiovascular exercise, or repetitive physical activity that increases your heart rate, is important to include in your daily life to reap the benefits of a stronger heart and mind. However, when living with a condition such as Rheumatoid arthritis (or any chronic condition for that matter), its important to maintain joint health as well as offset the side-effects of prescribed medications. Alongside some regular walking, a good way to achieve this is through a progressive resistance program. What I mean by that is, increasing the strength and health of your muscles through weight-training. This doesn’t mean you’ll get big and bulky muscles (unless that is one of your goals)! Rather, you’ll see an improvement in your ability to do more, whether it be gardening, household chores or being able to manage better on your next night out!
Another method to achieving better health is through mobility or stretching; keeping your muscles long and loose will ensure any stiffness or joint pain associated with your condition is kept to a minimum. Just a few minutes stretching your bigger muscle groups each day is all you’ll need to ensure you keep the joints happy and healthy.
So my final piece of advice, change that mindset, especially if you have previously been a No Pain, No Gain type of exerciser! At BJC, rather than saying “No Pain, No Gain” we like to use the saying “Know Pain, Know Gain.”
When you’re knowledgeable about your condition, and remain attentive and kind to your body, you can use exercise as a tool to safely and effectively manage your health and ensure you gain all the benefits possible.
If you’re unsure whether your exercise program is safe or appropriate for you, reach out to one of our Exercise Physiologists at BJC Health.