If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your joints can become painful, swollen, and stiff, and you can be fatigued — all symptoms that can get in the way of your doing the things you enjoy. But you don’t have to let them, You may have to become a little more creative, but you can find ways to enjoy your favorite hobbies or find new ones that bring you joy. Here are seven fun activities with tips to make them RA-friendly.
Visit Art Museums
Love art? Even though it involves walking, a visit to the museum isn’t out of the question. Art museums are often a good choice for people with RA because they are likely to have benches where you can sit and admire the works. You can take periodic breaks to rest when you go from room to room. Rest is important when you’re fighting RA fatigue.
Staying physically active is important if you have RA. Physical activity can reduce pain and enhance your mood. If you need to, you can modify your favorite activities so that they’re gentler on your joints. For example, instead of running, try walking. Or switch to yoga — a great physical activity for people with RA because it has a mindfulness component. Yoga helps with flexibility, balance, and stress.
Do Puzzles, Word Games, or Sudoku
Keeping mentally active is good for everyone. Brain games and memory exercises can help keep your mind sharp. When your joints are swollen and painful, it can be hard to pick up the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or hold a pencil to fill out the tiny squares of a crossword puzzle. But there are options: You can download apps that allow you to play games on your smartphone, or use your computer to play board and card games. If you play against other people online, you’re also staying engaged, and that’s important for your mental health as well, she says
If you love to read, but have trouble holding a book when symptoms flare in your hand joints, it’s time to get creative. Buy a book holder or download the audio version and listen on your smartphone. You also might want to join a book club, which is a great social activity, and social activities can help lift your mood. One in three people with chronic arthritis become depressed, according to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. Being with other people can help you feel less isolated and improve your mental outlook.
Lots of people enjoy gardening, but having RA can make all the bending and digging difficult. Heavy duty gardening can be hard on your hands. But you don’t have to give up gardening if it’s a hobby you enjoy. You just have to approach it differently. Think raised beds, vertical gardens, container gardening, and long-handled tools. Also, when you’re working outdoors, be sure to take breaks and pace yourself. A local garden shop can also give you advice on which plants don’t require as much maintenance.
Dancing can be a fun exercise and a great way to socialize. The cha-cha or Charleston may be too hard on your knee joints, but you could enjoy more gentle moves, like line or ballroom dancing. Tell your dance instructor about your arthritis and he or she is likely to make accommodations for you. What’s more: A study published in the September-October 2014 issue of the journal Geriatric Nursing found that older adults who took dance therapy classes twice a week actually reported less knee and hip pain.
Take Up Birdwatching
Birdwatching can be a fun and healthy activity for people with RA. Look for binoculars that are lightweight. Birdwatching is a good hobby for people with RA because it involves walking, which is a great form of physical activity, and it’s slow and gentle. It also gets people outdoors and breathing fresh air, which can be soothing and relaxing.
Do What You Like
Work with an occupational therapist, who can help you adapt your favorite activities and hobbies to your physical capabilities. Although RA is a progressive disease and your limitations may increase as time goes on, you can still do the things you love when you’re feeling good. Just remember, if you’re having a flare or not feeling as well, you may need to rest a little more.
NB: Make sure to talk to your doctor or consultant before taking up a new activity. They will be able to advise you as to the frequency and the intensity of the chosen activity, and will tell you about the precautions you will have to take.
What are your hobbies? Have they changed since the diagnosis? How have you adapted your pastime to your condition?