For many across the country, the winter months mean colder weather. It is easy for anyone to use snow, rain, chilly air, or freezing temperatures as an excuse for becoming depressed and inactive during the winter season. It is REALLY easy for those of us with arthritis to do so.
However, we must learn to take a no-excuses approach! While cozying up indoors can be comfortable, fabulous, and relaxing, and not all of us can hit the slopes for skiing, snowboarding, or sled-riding, it is nonetheless still crucial to remember that physical activity is the best natural pain reliever for arthritis.
Staying active is vital for joint, bone, and muscle health, and we must remember to keep moving at least a little bit each day – and to do more than just cuddle up under the covers while the snowflakes fall!
Trust me – I have RA, OA, and back pain among other issues, and so I know that cold air and precipitation can be an evil combo when it comes to pain. Plus, the older we get, the less tolerant our bones and joints are to cold weather. That being said, though, I have also found that just doing SOMETHING can not only get the blood flowing, but can make me feel more energized, too. It will do the same for you. Don’t get me wrong: exercise is hard – exercising when it’s cold outside is harder, and exercising with arthritis is even harder still. But, no one said it would be easy, and no one said life is fair. Being sedentary and laying around is only going to make your arthritis worse, whether you want to believe it or not.
It may seem paradoxical, because I know that it is difficult, but, physical activity can actually decrease arthritis pain in the long run, and will contribute to better joint and bone health overall. Play through the pain – but remember to only do what you can handle and not overexert yourself!
Baby steps are all you need - especially when you can’t get outdoors and be as active as you would in the warmer months.
Here are some ideas about how to stay active in the winter time:
1) Take a brisk, quick walk outdoors. Keep it short and sweet, and remember to bundle up. Believe it or not, the cold, crisp air will do you some good and the fresh air that we often lack in the winter due to being indoors so often actually has immunity-boosting functions! Reward yourself with a hot shower or warm bath afterwards!
2) Clean! Most of us dread housework, and on certain days it is physically impossible, but, on days when we are able, we can turn it into exercise and “kill two birds with one stone.” Turn on some music and make it fun! Dance around while you vacuum, sing while you dust, and just do what you can! Your happy, clean home will thank you – and so will your body!
3) Become a “mall-walker.” Most malls allow people to walk before the stores open. At some, you can even join a special club for all ages and all ability levels. You’ll be able to go at your own pace, AND check out the new merchandise in store windows before the general public gets to see it! Just remember not to overdo it!
4) Invest in an exercise bike or elliptical. You can look in the local newspaper or online to find gently used models that people are getting rid of for an affordable price, or, if they are moving, maybe even for free! The bikes that utilize arm motion are even better for the joints as you work both parts of your body! Bikes are great as physical therapy if you’ve had knee procedures done and so an indoor stationary bike would be superb for the winter.
5) Yoga and stretching. You can do yoga or simple stretches any time of the day, and in the comfort of your own home. Again, do not do anything that you aren’t comfortable doing. Do not overexert or overextend, but do try to stretch out your muscles at least a few times a day. If you are in a wheelchair or bedridden, you can STILL find many ways to stretch, or you can even try chair yoga!
If you are interested, the Arthritis Foundation also offers land and aqua exercise programs. Water aerobics at a local indoor pool would be great for arthritis, and while the land exercise programs offered at many locations may require you to drive somewhere, the reward you get from participating would be worth it. Even smaller activities to keep your fingers nimble such as knitting or crocheting could be good “exercise” for your hands and finger joints!
Do you have any other tips for staying active that you’d like to share? If so, please leave a comment.
Stay well & stay warm,
Don’t forget! If you want to warm up your heart during these chilly winter months and do some good for the holiday season, simply text the word ACTION to 27722 to donate $10 to the Arthritis Foundation, Mid Atlantic Region’s Million Dollar ACTION Campaign for Arthritis