It's been 30 years since I was diagnosed with RA. The onset was classic in its symptoms but my GP at the time thought all I needed was aspirin. He said take 12 a day and come back in 3-4 months. I thought the weight loss that was occurring was due to switching from Pepsi to Diet Coke, and the sore feet were from standing at work.
The result after diagnosis was a long battle with illness and no exercise. How could anyone expect me to be active? It was all I could do to keep going.
I saw a physiotherapist from The Arthritis Society sometimes and she recommended one exercise that stuck with me. That is the exercise where you act as though someone is trying to stick a knife in your bellybutton. You draw it in your muscles and tense them while you hold them tight for as long as possible and if you can, try to pull the muscles up toward your chin.
Well anyone can do that lying in bed so I did it for a few months regularly. Sometime later I was enrolled in a clinical trial which required frequent visits and doctor exams. One day I was examined by a new rheumatologist. In feeling my abs she said I had good muscle tone!!
That was a turning point - it amazed me that so little work could have such an appreciable effect. The trial did not work out - but I was enthusiastic about exercise all of a sudden and started to work on Pilates in a modified form called Arthro-Pilates which is taught by a Lori Weisbrod. She has inflammatory arthritis herself. Her site is http://www.arthro-pilates.com/ It felt a lot safer to be taking lessons from a person who knew my limitations and is an amazing example.
Now I have more muscle and strength and maybe I could go farther. After all if a 95 year old can be a yoga master and if someone who starts at age 56 can become a sculpted bodybuilder in her 70s I am sure I can develop more strength and power too - I'm not even a senior yet.