Exercise with rheumatism: how to motivate yourself

Nordic walking

Many people make the resolution to do more sport: How to motivate yourself to exercise more? This is what exercise expert Nicole Stefan-Schick explains.

At the beginning of the year, many people make resolutions: One of the most popular resolutions is probably to exercise more. At the same time, in the Corona pandemic, many exercise programs are cancelled, swimming pools are closed, and the weather only invites hardy people to go jogging or walking. How to motivate yourself? How to get moving anyway? Julia Bidder, editor-in-chief of the members’ magazine "mobil", talked about this, with the sports scientist Nicole Stefan-Schick. She is an exercise officer at the German Rheumatism League.

Ms. Stefan-Schick, many exercise programs are cancelled. How to motivate yourself to exercise on your own?

Exercise starts in the mind: Many people find it easier to get going once they understand how important exercise is for their health. We also take this into account in our exercise offerings such as functional training or active-high-r. When I notice that I’m improving because I exercise regularly, that can be very inspiring. Just as with healthy eating or quitting smoking, however, only one thing helps: doing!

Beginners should observe themselves well and take small steps. Also small movement units in the everyday life help with the start. The National Recommendations for Physical Activity and Physical Activity Promotion advise at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Already ten minutes of movement at a time may be counted, thus also a small walk – exactly like movement in the everyday life, for instance garden work, vacuuming or window cleaning.

Many people simply feel too tired to get going. How can I still succeed in bringing exercise into everyday life??

First of all, it is important to know that exercise helps to overcome fatigue caused by the disease. But even healthy people often get into a downward spiral due to lack of exercise and lethargy: you feel tired and move little, thus becoming even more lethargic, the cardiovascular system becomes weaker, which further increases fatigue. For rheumatics, the joints become additionally stiffer. How do I get out of the downward spiral?? No matter for which reasons one had paused, one should begin with small steps and remain generous to oneself. You can’t be as fit the first time as you used to be. But if you stay on the ball, you feel how you improve – and that motivates you.

Is there an ideal type of sport or a good sports program for beginners??

Regular exercise activity must fit in with me and my daily routine. For example, it’s not much use if I plan to go swimming regularly and the opening hours of the swimming pool don’t fit in with my working hours.

Often it is said that you should choose a sport that you enjoy. But what if just about everything you try seems to be torture?

It often depends on your own situation evaluation: If I don’t see the effort as torture, but as a challenge for me and my body, and I also know that I’m doing something good for myself when I make an effort, then I’m breaking down barriers – namely the ones in my head, and the path to more movement is paved a little bit more.

But if I still have the feeling that I don’t enjoy this movement, then perhaps I haven’t really found the right thing yet. Maybe someone does not like uniform movements. Then it could be that cycling or walking does not work, but dancing does? Or a team sport? In addition, a mood analysis before and after training can help with the analysis: On a scale of 1 to 10, record how comfortable you feel before the workout: 1 stands for active, 10 for completely k. o. Even a few minutes of exercise can lift your spirits.

If this is not the case, the load was possibly too high or too low. It is also true that it takes some time for changed habits to become routine. Studies show that it takes 21 days for an action to become a habit. So you also need a little patience with yourself – and stamina.

The movement posters of the rheumatism league

Videos, podcasts, online seminars: The state and member associations have a wide range of offerings that you can easily access from home. Learn more!

The German Rheumatism League has published several movement posters. These can be downloaded from the website and ordered from the state and member associations.

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