[Editor's Notes: This story was published before the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember to practice social distancing when appropriate during your walk and adhere to all local guidelines.]
It’s important to be active and stay healthy, especially if you’re living with psoriatic disease. Keeping your body moving can help you shed pounds and avoid other diseases associated with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Making that jump-start into living a more active life, especially if you’ve been spending more time on the couch than at the gym, can be hard. It doesn’t make things easier if you’re older or living with physical limitations. That’s why, for most of us, walking is a great way to keep in shape or maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A Million Shades of Walking
“Walking is such a great exercise because it does a million things. It’s great for cardiovascular health, it decreases body weight, it decreases blood pressure, it builds strength and endurance. There are also studies that say it helps to reduce depression and anxiety rates,” says physical therapist Lauren Smith, DPT, at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
But starting even something as basic as a walking program needs additional considerations if you’re living with a chronic disease. It’s important to listen to your body and take it slow in the beginning.
“Some make the mistake of taking the slogan of ‘no pain, no gain’ seriously when they start working out,” says Smith. “I don’t like that phrase because if you are putting your body in pain, then you are flaring something up.”
Our Bodies Are Not the Same
Going harder and faster does not always make you stronger. Start off with short intervals. And if five or 10 minutes per day is where you start – that’s OK. Push your body only as far as it allows. The goal is to get to a point where you can walk at least 30 minutes every day of the week.
Smith acknowledges hitting that mark might be more difficult in the winter months. However, using your household hallways or a public indoor area – like a mall – rather than outdoors is a great alternative. And, especially if you’re just starting out, try to stick to a flat or gradual surface when walking. This will help to limit pressure on your joints.
The key is to pay attention to your body. If you’re sore or uncomfortable from yesterday’s walk, maybe take a break today or find an alternative activity. Don’t push it, and don’t compare yourself with others who might be able to walk longer.
“Even if you and I both have psoriatic arthritis, our bodies are not the same,” says Smith. “Everyone has to be treated individually, and everyone’s exercise program should be individualized to them.”
Set Yourself Up for Success
It’s also important to remember that even if you’re going to walk for only a few minutes, don’t skip warm-up stretches and cool-down breathing techniques. And set yourself up for success with the proper equipment – wear comfortable clothes and find a supportive pair of sneakers.
As with any activity, no matter how hard or easy, getting a healthy routine going will help you stick with it. But how do you motivate yourself when your everyday life is filled with the pain or discomfort associated with psoriatic disease?
Smith says it all starts with your own individual goal. “Are you walking to stay in shape? Are you walking to be able to go grocery shopping without complications? Set a goal that’s personal to you, and it will help you to stay on track,” she says.