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Lifescript.com—July 28, 2012

Having rheumatoid arthritis isn’t an excuse to avoid outdoor activity. Learn how to participate in cycling, camping, hiking, swimming and other sports without worsening pain or harming your body...

Is your dream to play tennis like Wimbledon champion Serena Williams or swim laps in a pool like Olympic medalist Dara Torres? You can – even if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, fatigue and painful joints.

In fact, getting regular outdoor exercise may be one of the best ways to ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: Exercising in nature can reduce stress and fatigue while boosting mood, according to a 2012 study of 1,890 people with RA at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Outdoor exercisers are also more likely to stick with their workout program, the study found.

Still, if you have RA, outdoor activity poses special challenges. Before starting a workout program, ask your doctor what you can safely do without stressing your joints, advises Karen Yanelli, P.T., DPT, a physical therapist with the Joint Mobility Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Here’s how to have fun while getting physically, emotionally and mentally fit:

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Outdoor activity tip #5: Find your ideal time for exercise.
Many women with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis should exercise in the morning or afternoon because they get more tired later in the day, says Susan Goodman, M.D., an assistant attending rheumatologist and internist at Hospital for Special Surgery.

“They have profound fatigue, which can make adding exercise to [an already] busy day almost impossible,” she explains.

If you have stiff and achy joints when you wake up, “wait a few hours before exercising – even until the afternoon or early evening,” Dr. Goodman suggests.

Read the other nine activity tips at lifescript.com.

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