According to the NPF COVID-19 task force guidance statements, “It is recommended that patients who are not infected with SARS-CoV-2 continue their biologic or oral therapies for psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis in most cases. Shared decision-making between clinician and patient is recommended to guide discussions about use of systemic therapies during the pandemic.”
Hitting the Road
It was not the potential benefits of exercise and movement in dealing with PsA that led Williams to his bike. It was something much more universal: He was in his late 30s or early 40s and realized his sedentary lifestyle was not a good idea. His toes do not stop him from walking, but running would be too high impact, he assumed. He turned instead to a hobby he had enjoyed in college and climbed back into the saddle as a cyclist.
“Cycling is good because [almost] anybody can do it, and so I started riding some,” Williams says. “I got involved in group riding with a group out of a local bike shop.” At that time, he was already involved with the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), which he had turned to years earlier for information to help manage and understand psoriatic disease. But Team NPF had not yet begun cycling events in his area, so Williams rode for the American Diabetes Association.
As happens when healthy habits match up with joy from the activity, Williams progressed as a rider. He worked his way up to a 100-mile ride, known as a century ride. Most people get a little tired at the notion of driving a car that far, but Williams says he relishes the community and social aspects of group rides. He feels like his body thrives with the regular cardio – especially all the lengthy rides in the Virginia countryside as he prepares for long events.
“I wear a heart rate monitor, and I work hard when I’m riding,” he says. “It’s not just a ride around the park.”
While Williams didn’t begin with the idea of fending off comorbidities or maintaining joint health, he explains that he has come to appreciate that his activity of choice is a good fit for managing his disease and its associated risks. “You know, the more I’ve come to understand about inflammatory diseases, the more important I think it is to get your regular exercise,” he says. “Cycling is also not so rough on your body.”
Experts Agree with Williams
Williams’ preference for cycling has proven to be a smart one. Soumya Reddy, M.D., co-director of the Psoriatic Arthritis Center and assistant professor of medicine at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, espouses the value of exercise and activity – especially lower impact activities – in managing PsA. “Exercise or movement is recommended for people with PsA,” Dr. Reddy says. “Exercise has many benefits for patients with [psoriatic] arthritis, including muscle strengthening. Keeping the muscles that support joints strong helps to alleviate extra pressure or ‘work’ for the joints.”
Dr. Reddy points out that exercise is helpful in maintaining a healthy body weight too. “There are also many cardiovascular benefits to regular exercise,” she says. That’s important because cardiovascular disease is “a known comorbidity that can affect many people with PsA. There is also an abundance of evidence of mental health and stress reduction benefits of exercise,” she adds.
You do not have to be an athlete of Williams’ caliber to see exercise benefits for your PsA symptoms. “Gentle and low impact exercises are an excellent option for people with PsA who have limited range of motion in some joints that may limit their ability to participate in other types of exercise,” says Dr. Reddy. “These low impact exercises can still have many of the benefits of exercise in general, but may be less painful and more easily modifiable for those with limitation of joint mobility.”
Dr. Reddy has a few suggestions for gentler exercise, but also a note of encouragement for those who want a challenge. “Yoga, Pilates, walking and biking are all types of exercises that may be effective for people with PsA, but I have patients who are doing well and able to compete in triathlons safely,” she says. “Any exercise that people enjoy and can do without significant pain is recommended. As always, it’s important to discuss with your rheumatologist if they have any specific concerns/limitations.”