Can exercise help rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Yes it does help for RA. It increases the range of motion and flexibility of the joint. It also increases the muscle strength around those joint and provide joint stability.
Exercise not only strengthens and protects your body, but also can boost energy and mood, reduce stress, help you sleep better at night, and reduce joint pain and stiffness. So even on days when you don't feel up to it, try to do some physical activity, even if it's just stretching gently or taking a short walk.

If you're not already a regular exerciser, ask your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist to help develop an exercise routine that's right for you. Even if you already have a workout plan, a physical therapist may be able to address specific issues related to your rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

These types of exercise are recommended for RA:
  • Range of motion exercises that move joints normally -- and fluidly -- through their entire range can help prevent stiffness and maintain joint function. Some examples of range-of-motion exercises are chi-gong (qigong), yoga, and tai chi. If you are just starting out or are experiencing a painful flare-up, a physical therapist can help you do passive range of motion by gently moving your limbs for you.
  • Aerobic exercise is any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing. It can help improve joint function, may reduce swelling, is good for your heart and lungs, and is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Choose low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling, rather than sports that are hard on joints, such as running or tennis.
  • Strength training uses resistance to build muscle strength and endurance. It's good for rheumatoid arthritis because strengthening the muscles surrounding an affected joint can help support it and protect it from damage. Resistance training can also help maintain or restore muscle strength that may be lost when inflammation flares or when a joint isn't used.
  • Water-based exercises can help improve strength, range of movement, and cardiovascular fitness without stressing your joints, because the water supports most of your weight.

Plan for plenty of rest between exercises; during exercise, make sure to breathe deeply and use good posture. You may feel some discomfort, but sharp pain in your joints is a sign that you should stop. Let your doctor know if pain following a workout lasts more than a day or two.

Take the RealAge Test!

Continue Learning about Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Treatment

Can nutritional supplements for RA relieve pain?
Alan GabyAlan Gaby
Research has demonstrated that certain nutritional supplements can improve the symptoms of rheumatoi...
More Answers
Can exercise slow down joint destruction with RA?
Joanne Duncan-Carnesciali, CPT,NASM Elite TrainerJoanne Duncan-Carnesciali, CPT,NASM Elite Trainer
According to the the Third Edition of ACSM's Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Disease an...
More Answers
Can cognitive therapy for RA pain management help my emotional stress?
Devi E. Nampiaparampil, MDDevi E. Nampiaparampil, MD
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people to understand their patterns of thinking. Some of th...
More Answers
Can joint replacement surgery for RA be done on the fingers?
Noel Henley, MDNoel Henley, MD
Yes.The most common and beneficial joints that can be replaced are the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joi...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.