Inflammatory Arthritis

How to Stay Active in the Winter with Arthritis

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It’s that time of year again - when the temperature begins to drop and the motivation to go out once the sun goes down begins to disappear.

With the cold weather taking over, many people find themselves becoming less active, which can lead to a variety of issues in the body. For example, one may experience more stiffness, pain and/or fatigue after periods of inactivity. It can feel tempting to simply avoid the outdoors and hibernate for the winter, however it is important to remain active even if going outside doesn’t appeal to you during the colder months. Many people living with inflammatory arthritis find that the cold weather makes it harder for them to manage their condition, especially when one’s exercise routine is halted, and symptoms worsen. 

We have put together 3 ways to stay active in the winter, to help provide some ideas and support – and some motivation to keep moving despite the chilly weather outside. All of these ideas are made up of low-impact activities, and we suggest staying active in a way that feels comfortable and safe to you. 

Disclaimer: Before making any major or significant changes to your exercise routine, speak with your doctor to ensure that it is a safe change for you. 

  1. Walk in place

Walking is one of the most underrated ways to exercise and stay active, and it’s not something that has to be done outdoors or on a treadmill. If you have arthritis, this low impact exercise is one that you should definitely try to incorporate into your routine if you feel comfortable doing so.

A great way to keep your legs and arms moving in the winter is to simply walk in place! 

You may wonder if walking in place has the same benefits as actually walking around – and actually – it does. As long as you keep your heart rate up, have enough space to properly walk/march in place, and wear comfortable footwear as you would on a walk to the park, or to the store – you will gain the same benefits. 

2. Stretching

Stretching is a simple exercise that you can do anywhere at any time. How and what you should stretch will depend on your own focus areas and where you feel needs it the most. For example, if you struggle with arthritis in your knees, you may want to focus on stretches that help to strengthen your knees or keep them moving so that you have less stiffness. 

Here are some examples of stretches you can do based on what part of your body you want to focus on.

Hands

  • Hold your hand and fingers straight and close together upright, slowly close your hand and create a fist without squeezing it tight. Open up your hand again and return the original position. Repeat this a few times on each hand. 
  • Hold your hand and fingers straight and close together, in whatever position feels comfortable – whether that means upright or sideways. One by one, touch your thumb to each finger’s tip. Repeat this a few times on each hand. 

Wrist

  • Hold your left arm out in front of you with your palm facing the floor. With your right hand, apply a small amount of pressure to push your left hand down until you feel a bit of a stretching sensation in your wrist. Hold that position for a few seconds, ensuring you aren’t stretching it too much, and slowly release it. Repeat this for both of your wrists a few times.

Knees

  • Lay on your back on a firm but comfortable surface (a yoga mat is preferable) and stretch both of your legs out straight. Slowly slide one foot on the floor towards you, bending one knee. Once your foot that you have slid is parallel to your other leg’s knee, slide it back down. Repeat this for both legs a few times – and don’t rush it – take your time!

3. Yoga

Yoga offers many benefits from relaxation to strength building. If yoga is something that interests you, getting a yoga mat or something similar will be really beneficial to you. 

Here are some examples of yoga positions that you may want to try out that are low-impact. 

Yoga positions to try:

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight. Place your left hand on the top of your left thigh, and raise your right arm straight up on the air. Slowly bend to the side and stretch your arm to the left, feeling a good stretch in your spine and on your side. Don’t try reaching too much, just enough to feel a slight stretch that is comfortable to you. Lower your arm down and repeat the same thing with your other arm. Do this a few times! 
  • Keeping the chair, place both of your arms down by your sides and hold the right arm rest with your right hand, placing your left hand on your right knee. Slowly turn to your right so that you feel a slight stretch in your back. Do this on both sides a few times!
  • Lay on your stomach on the floor with your legs stretched out straight. Slowly raise your left calf from the floor and try to touch it with your left hand, hold it for 2-3 seconds and stretch out the leg again. Alternate legs and repeat a few times. 

Some additional tips to stay motivated…

  1. If you have children, consider involving them in the exercises you do. Not only will that motivate you to keep moving, but it is a great way to get your family involved.
  2. Don’t overcommit. Set realistic goals of how often you will do something. Perhaps start off doing something 1-3 times a week, and slowly build up your frequency.
  3. Adjust what you do based on how you’re feeling. If you are having a bad day, perhaps you’re experiencing a flare or not feeling so great mentally, give yourself a break and take it easy. Do what is best for you. 

 

Although this is not an exhaustive list of things you can do from the comfort of your home this winter, it is a good start in getting moving a bit more. As mentioned earlier, if you want to add some new exercises into your routine, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before doing so – to make sure your new exercises are safe and right for you.

 


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We would love to hear what you do to stay motivated during the colder months, email us at sarah@ampersandhealth.co.uk to share your story today.

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