T he COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to stay home more than usual. As a result, our eating habits and the ways we’re staying fit have changed. Unlimited access to the pantry for snacks has led some people to gain (or search for ways to avoid) the dreaded “quarantine 15.” Instead of going to the gym or signing up for a fitness class with friends, people have increasingly turned to online workouts — a trend that’s likely not going anywhere once we’re past the pandemic.
And that’s not the only lifestyle trend that took off in the past year. Bodyweight training, fusion fitness classes, and mindfulness-based activities have all become more popular.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you likely already know that staying active can help ease joint pain and stiffness and strengthen your muscles to better support your joints. But you may be wondering if the latest fitness trends are safe for you. The good news? With some potential modifications, they can be!
That’s where On Trend comes in. We’ll show you how to safely get moving with some of the latest fitness trends from the comfort of your own home.
Meet the Experts
Suleman Bhana, MD
Dr. Bhana is a rheumatologist at Crystal Run Healthcare in West Nyack, New York, and chair of the communications and marketing committee at the American College of Rheumatology. Inspired by his mother’s journey with inflammatory arthritis, Bhana is passionate about helping people with rheumatic disease.
Motivated by challenges she herself has faced with RA, Portland, Oregon–based Sweat instructor Britany Williams specializes in barre. Her classes fuse traditional elements of ballet and Pilates with athletic, high-intensity movements to build strength and increase flexibility.
For Sweat instructor Phyllicia Bonanno, yoga provides an energizing release that also builds strength and flexibility while grounding the mind and body. The New Jersey native enjoys the interlinking flow of movement between poses and the ability to create unique and creative flows for her followers.
On Trend: Fitness and Nutrition Tips
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Trend #1: Connecting Mind and Body Through Yoga
T hese days, people are looking for ways to boost their physical and mental fitness. Yoga has been popular for a while, but according to a survey conducted by ClassPass, it’s gained even more traction during lockdown, with people turning to yoga as a way to cope with stress.
The physical benefits of yoga for people with RA — including increased joint flexibility and function — are well-known. But if you’re in a large fitness class, or if you’re simply just focused on your physical movements, it’s easy to overlook the mindfulness elements of yoga.
“Mental fitness and mindful movement are so important for our well-being,” says Bonanno. “Think about that mind-body connection and feel each movement through your breath.” Incorporating deep, conscious breathing into your yoga routine can help reduce RA pain and stress from managing the condition.
Here, Bonanno leads you through a yoga flow to help you refocus on that mind-body connection. We’ve also tapped Bhana to provide his input on how being more mindful helps RA.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Trend #2: Bodyweight Strength Training to Protect Joints
A well-rounded fitness plan for RA includes strength training. Strengthening your muscles can help ease pressure on your joints, which can then help reduce your symptoms and improve function.
According to ClassPass, virtual strength training classes are some of the most likely to be replayed during the pandemic. Bodyweight training in particular has become especially popular, as many people don’t have access to all the gym equipment they’re used to. But you don’t need fancy equipment or even free weights to get a great at-home strength workout for your arms, legs, and core.
Sweat fitness instructor Williams — who herself has RA — takes us through this low-impact, no-equipment barre workout that engages all your major muscles groups. She also demonstrates modifications that can make each movement easier on your joints. Don’t be discouraged if you need to modify certain exercises — Williams does, too! “I couldn’t do push-ups on my toes for years because of my RA,” she says. “It was doing modified push-ups that really helped me grow my range of motion in my wrists to be able to do them on my toes.”
The more you practice, the stronger you’ll get. Take the first step now by hitting play on this full-body barre burner! You’ll also hear from Bhana on how exercise fits into your self-care routine.
Trend #3: Cardio Barre: A Fusion Fitness Class
Now that many people are working from home, they’re looking for ways to fit in fitness between Zoom meetings or during their lunch break. In fact, ClassPass reports that 12 p.m. has become the most popular time to sneak in a workout during the week. It’s important to make the most of the time you have to work out — even if it’s just a few minutes — and that’s where fusion fitness comes in.
Fusion workouts, which combine at least two different types of exercises, are a great way to fit a quick and effective sweat session into your busy day. You’ll get cardio, strength, and conditioning benefits, all in one workout.
Here, Williams mixes the toning and strengthening benefits of barre with the aerobic benefits of cardio. “I have RA myself, so I completely understand how hard it can be to find a cardio workout that’s still nice and protective on my joints,” she says. That’s why this cardio-barre routine is ideal — you’ll get your heart pumping without any running, jumping, or other high-impact exercises.
Bhana is also here to provide practical advice and tips throughout the workout. So grab a mat (and a chair, for balance) and get started.