Exercise Guidelines for Rheumatoid Arthritis

One important thing that you can do to help manage your RA symptoms is to exercise! The right exercises can help relieve joint pain and build muscle strength.  There are three main groups of exercises you should incorporate into your fitness routine:  stretching, strength training and cardiovascular (CV) exercise.  Weight bearing exercise (such as walking and elliptical machine) is especially important to promote bone health and improve your functional abilities.  The following is a list of exercise guidelines:

  • Start slow – If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start with 5 – 10 minutes of light exercise and gradually increase time and intensity in order to build strength and avoid discomfort and injury.
  • Avoid exercising joints that are flared-up.  Choose an exercise that targets other parts of the body that you can perform comfortably. If several of your joints are inflamed or you’re not felling well, rest and drink plenty of water.  Once you feel better and are able to resume activity, listen to your body and talk to your doctor if you have any issues that don’t improve with rest.
  • Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program, and to find an exercise plan that will keep your arthritis under control so you can enjoy a more active lifestyle.
  • Using resistance band is a safe and gentle way to perform strength training exercises.  
  • Several small bouts of exercise during the day may help with decreasing fatigue level.
  • Stretch only through available ROM or slight stretch, especially in affected joints.
  • Exercise may be more comfortable later in the day if symptoms and stiffness are worse in the morning.
  • Monitor increase in symptoms vs. muscle soreness to determine exercise intensity.  Muscle soreness is normal with exercise especially when starting a new program. 
  • Most importantly, choose exercises that you enjoy most, and have fun!