I was diagnosed with Arthritis (JIA) at age four, which means I have spent my whole live learning how to live a full, happy and active life in harmony with a chronic illness. Some days are better than others but one thing I have learned is the most important part of managing my disease is staying active. “Motion is lotion” as they say!
There have been many wobbles on the road to finding what “active” means for me. Especially on days where I wake up in pain or am battling fatigue which causes me to struggle to find the motivation to move let alone exercise. But as my mother often likes to remind me, I am no different than anyone else, staying active amidst living life is challenging for anyone, with or without Arthritis. The fact still remains, keeping up with a routine of being active is a part of a leading a healthy life.
Bodies are meant to move. As we are all differently abled, this will look different for everyone but everyone can do something. The trick is to learn what that is for you each day and at each stage of your life. Some days that may be a 25km run or a tough “leg day” at the gym, and some days it may be a few stretches while listening to classical music and sipping your coffee. It is not about quantity or intensity. It is about consistency. I am still learning to ask my body each morning which one it will be, to leave my ego behind about where I should be, and accept where I am at today.
Here are some of my go-to, low-impact activities for days when my body needs to take it slow:
- Sitting yoga: I literally do not lift my butt off the mat. There are tons of low impact, non-weight-bearing movements that can be done in a sitting position. Use ALL the props you can find (pillows, blankets, towels) to make sure you are in a comfortable seated position. Then try some slow neck circle, shoulder shrugs, deep breaths, wrist circles. I am no yogi and it still feels really good, especially in the morning as a slow way to wake the body up.
- 8 minute abs: Watch this awesome 80’s youtube video and be inspired! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWjTnBmCHTY Not only is the music and clothing entertaining but the workout is low-impact and requires no equipment so can be done pretty much anywhere. I usually reserve this gem for when I am staying in hotels or away from home and just watch it on my phone. I do modify some of the movements depending on how I am feeling. The best thing, it is only 8 minutes!
- 20 minute walk in the park: I am fortunate to live in a place that has lots of green space but I recognize that this is not accessible for everyone so any green space will do. I am not talking the walk from your car to your office door, that doesn’t count! But a park, a tree lined street are great! I do practice some mindfulness activities such as counting how many noises I hear and focus on calming my mind and taking deep breaths. I do set an intentional time for my walk (usually 20 minutes) so that I can feel like I accomplished my “goal” at the end.