Joint-Friendly Exercises

One of the first things I learned about RA is that exercise will make a huge difference in how one feels.  Exercising causes the release of chemicals that act as a pain reliever.  Cool!  I could use that.  Exercising also strengthens the muscles, permitting smoother working of joints.  Great!  I could use that, too.

Which exercises? is the big question.  Sure, a swimming pool would be best, but a heated pool (indoor, so it can be used all year) is a bit out of my price range.  The public pool is too far away.  I loved it when I was teaching swimming lessons, but didn’t feel well enough to drive an hour to the pool and had to give that up.

CoatRack 002In all honesty, except for our stint swimming, my track record since the kids were born shows that I’m better at intending to exercise than I am at actually doing it.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on exercise equipment only to have it turn into an expensive coat rack.

I settled on an elliptical trainer.  Based on the online research that I did, it sounded like the machines under $400 have a 30-day warranty.  The $1000 machines have only a 90-day warranty.   The machines that have a 20-year warranty cost many thousands of dollars.  I bought a cheap one that I found on a half-price sale.  The store had one on display so I was able to try it before making the purchase.

Once the thing was set up, it’s amazing how many excuses I could find to not use it.

  • I’d intended to exercise first thing in the morning while the kids were still asleep.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the machine made enough noise that it disturbed people’s sleep.  That meant I couldn’t use it until everyone was awake.  Once the kids were awake, I needed to be working with them instead of exercising.  Hmmm… Not when they’re asleep and not when they’re awake. It took some juggling, but I finally found a time that I thought would work with everyone’s schedule.
  • I’d hop onto the elliptical, check the time, and within thirty seconds would remember that I hadn’t folded the laundry yet.  Stop.  Fold the laundry.
  • Try again.  I’d make another attempt and only last 45 second before thinking that it would be great to mop the kitchen first so that the floor could be drying while I was doing my exercises.
  • I’d try again, and this time think of yet another chore that just couldn’t wait.  My husband would get home at the end of the day and marvel over how nice and clean the house looked.

Finally I told myself that instead of feeling guilty about being unable to exercise for thirty minutes, I’d take the “some is better than none” approach.  I started with two minutes.  Physically I could have done more, but it was incredibly boring.  Setting an easy goal let me feel a sense of accomplishment instead of a sense of failure.

My next step was to rearrange some furniture and set up a television where it could be seen from the elliptical.  Spinning my feet around in circles didn’t seem so mind-numbingly tedious when I was occupied thinking about something else.  When the family sat down together to watch Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune after dinner, I slipped into the other room.  I didn’t feel like I was neglecting a bunch of jobs that I should be doing because that time had been set aside for the whole family to watch those shows.  Usually a couple of the kids would come in and keep me company.  That worked well all winter.

Once spring arrived there was gardening and yard work to do.  We got an above-ground pool for summer exercise outdoors.  I didn’t manage to do it every day, but between the pool and summer chores, I kept active.  Now we’re back to rainy weather again, so I’ve just begun a new evening exercise routine.  For a little variety, I have some options instead of being stuck with the elliptical.  Over the summer I found an exercise bike and something with a label that makes me think of this:


Credit: By Charlesjsharp (Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

But which really looks more like this:
Product Image Tony Little’s Gazelle Freestyle
I’d love to hear your tips on making time for an exercise routine and sticking with it.

5 thoughts on “Joint-Friendly Exercises

  1. When your comment doesn’t appear, assume that it was caught in the spam filter. Or that it was disguised well enough to make it through the spam filter, but I flagged it. E-mail me if your non-spam comment needs to be rescued from akismet.

  2. I have an elliptical, too. I really like it, but I usually have to be occupying my mind somehow if I’m going to stay on it. Sometimes I try to hold a book while I use it (with varying levels of success) and other times I just turn the tv on for a while.

    But I run into similar distractions (minus the kids!). I’ll think, “oh, I should really clean that floor,” or something along those lines. I have no idea how to stop doing that!

    I also try to do yoga because I know it would be good for me, but again I have trouble concentrating and get distracted. I think I need exrcises that occupy my mind so I don’t get bored.

  3. I used to have one of the bottom exercise machines. At the time we had a big dog and she was always coming so close to me when I was using it that I was scared I would kick her or something. That was my excuse for not using it.

    We do have an elliptical machine, but it hurts my knees. Something about the way it is angled doesn’t make my motions normal for me. My husband loves it and so do my kids.

    I get up before everyone is awake and walk on the treadmill. It is in the basement so it doesn’t make too much noise.

    In the summer it was great (before surgery) because my daughters both wanted to start running so we would “run” together (but really just walk fast). It is so much more fun to exercise with the kids. Plus it forces me to do it because I am setting a good example. Now that I am not allowed to exercise though, I am finding that I sort of like not doing it. This will not be great for me getting back into the swing of it when I am allowed!

  4. This did make me laugh, especially the springbok picture! It rang a lot of bells too. I wish I had some tips on making time for an exercise routine and sticking with it, but as I am a dismal failure at both (we gave away the coat rack to someone who was prepared to use it as an exercise bike), I haven’t.

  5. Pingback: Exercise Resolution « ∞ itis

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