LIVING WELL

Tips for Staying Active

Gardening

  • Don’t sit on the ground when you pull weeds or plant bulbs. Sit on a low step-stool or a turned-over metal basin instead. Make sure the seat is low enough that you can bend over easily to do your gardening.
  • Use a wheeled cart or basket to carry bulbs and gardening tools around your yard. You can push the cart with your feet if you find it difficult to stoop down to move it, or tie a rope or old bathrobe belt to the basket and pull it around the yard.
  • If you like flower gardening but can’t sit on the ground or stoop to low flower beds, try planting flowers in window-box containers or clay pots that sit on tables outside your house. Consider building a greenhouse with raised shelves and tables to hold pots of flowers and plants.
  • Buy gardening tools with adaptive handles that are easy to grasp, or build up handles yourself by wrapping them with electrical tape, bubble wrap or foam padding.

Traveling

  • During a flight, try exercising in your seat. Roll your shoulders in a circle, and flex your ankles, hands and fingers. Whenever possible, walk up and down the aisle or to the restroom.
  • When traveling, use a small, compartmented pill container to organize your daily medications. Keep the container in your purse, carry-on bag or suit pocket where you won’t lose it and can access it easily during your trip.
  • If you are traveling to a different time zone, particularly overseas, keep a log of when you need to take your medications. Take an extra watch with you that is set to your home time, so that you can take your pills at the appropriate time. If the watch has an alarm, set it for dosage times.
  • If you are taking a long car trip, plan periodic stops at rest areas. Get out of the car, stretch and have a snack. Schedule these stops and figure them into the total travel time.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to pack for a trip. Plan out beforehand what you will need. Take clothing items that can be mixed and matched to cut down on the amount you pack in your suitcase. A suitcase with fewer items is easier to carry, and clothing stays fresher.

Activities With Families

  • If you have arthritis and need to help your children dress in the morning, sit on a chair and have the child stand in front of you. This puts you both at the same height and makes dressing easier.
  • Pack children’s lunches the evening before, or pack several days’ worth at once. Store these meals in paper sacks in the refrigerator if the items are perishable. Advance preparation cuts down on morning rush.
  • If you are spending a long evening with family or friends at a restaurant, sitting for a long period of time may make your joints stiff. Between courses, get up and walk to the restroom or to the bar area. This tip also may keep you from nibbling too much from the contents of the bread basket.
  • Your joints may become stiff during a long movie. Get to the theater early, so you can choose an aisle seat or a handicapped-accessible seat that allows you to stretch your legs periodically.
  • A level, well-mowed back yard can be a great place for light exercise. Try kicking a ball back and forth with the children in your family, or toss a rubber ball to your dog and let him fetch it and bring it back to you. Croquet might be another entertaining exercise. Build up the croquet mallet handles with padding to make them easier to grip.
  • Hiking can be an enjoyable and leisurely form of exercise. Investigate any hiking trails before you embark on your hike. Avoid trails with any uneven or slippery footing or steep inclines or any trails that require you to climb using your hands. Pick an easy, beginner’s trail that is well-marked. Hike with friends – never alone – and bring a cellular phone and identification card with you.
  • While you’re watching TV, get off the couch and walk around about once every 30 minutes – perhaps in between your favorite shows or during commercial breaks – to keep joints from stiffening. Don’t just walk to the refrigerator and back.
  • If you find it difficult to handle playing cards or game pieces, play games with your friends or family in a team format. Divide into twos and let your partner handle cards, dice, play money or game pieces while you help with strategy.

How to Fight Fatigue

  • Stick to the time you've allotted for work. At times, you may have to stay longer to get your job done. But if a task can wait until the next day, leave it until then. You'll get more done in the long run if you don’t wear yourself out.
  • Don’t rush. You'll be more efficient working at a comfortable pace than at a hectic one that invites mistakes and accidents. Schedule time for the unexpected.
  • Discuss with your supervisor the possibility of adjusting your work schedule. You may be able to come to work later and leave later, allowing you extra time in the morning to take a warm bath or to stretch.
  • Talk to your fellow workers about swapping duties when possible. When you’re having a flare, it may be too difficult for you to do certain tasks, and you may be able to trade for less strenuous duties.

Cooking

  • If you need to fill a large pot with water, don’t fill it in the sink. Using both hands, place the pot on the stove. Then, fill a glass, small pitcher, watering can or kettle and pour water into the pot until you have the amount needed.
  • When washing dishes, using a mitt made of sponge material may be more comfortable than trying to hold a sponge or scouring pad. These mitts are available at hardware stores, in the automotive accessories departments.
  • Use tongs instead of a fork to turn food, such as chicken breasts, during cooking or grilling.
  • Griddles with low sides may be easier to use than skillets for cooking chicken breasts, chops or fried eggs. The low sides make it easier to turn food with a spatula, or to slide it off the griddle and onto a platter.
  • Buy cheese already grated or shredded. These cheeses come in resealable plastic bags, and will save your hands from strenuous grating. If you have a hard time resealing these bags, close them with bag clips.
  • Try opening jars with a rubber jar opener. Or, try placing it in a shallow drawer. Close the drawer enough to squeeze the jar between drawer and countertop, then use both hands to twist the lid open. Use this method for bottles as well.
  • Many kitchen appliances and cooking utensils come with easy-to-grip handles. Be a proactive consumer – look for these items at your local cookware store, or ask the manager if the store can order these items for you. There also are a number of catalog and Web site companies that sell easy-to-use cooking items.
  • Use pre-chopped, bagged vegetables and salad mixes to save energy when preparing meals. Bags of frozen mixed vegetables can be defrosted and used in casseroles, stir-fries, salads and omelets. Bags of frozen vegetables can double as a handy ice pack for stiff, painful joints.
  • Use kitchen scissors to cut open slices of individually wrapped cheese, then pull off the plastic wrap. Large-grip scissors also can be used to cut off pats of stick butter or margarine, and chop the tops off celery stalks.
  • Don’t transfer a cooked dish from the pot to a serving dish. Put the pot on a heatproof trivet right on the dinner table, or put servings on the plates in the kitchen and then serve them to your guests.
  • Use a large plastic pitcher or a bowl with a spout at one end for mixing cake batters. This method makes it easier to pour batter into the pan. Hold the pitcher or bowl with both hands when you pour.

All of the tips you’ve just read were excerpted from The Arthritis Foundation's Tips for Good Living with Arthritis, copyright ©2001,
Arthritis Foundation. Want more? Get your own copy of Tips for Good Living with Arthritis by calling (800) 283-7800.