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Exercise to Feel Your Best With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Don’t let rheumatoid arthritis bench you! Your body will appreciate it if you stay as active as possible.

The perks include:

  • Better flexibility. Moving your joints helps relieve stiffness and keeps them flexible.
  • Stronger muscles. Exercise strengthens your muscles, which helps them support and protect your joints.
  • Denser bones. Arthritis-related inflammation, and some of the drugs that treat it, can make your bones more fragile and more likely to break. Working out boosts bone density, which could mean fewer fractures.
  • A healthier heart. Exercise is good for everyone's ticker. If you have RA, that's especially important, since the condition makes you more likely to get heart disease.
  • You feel better. Working out boosts your mood, gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, and can make you feel better about yourself. Exercise with a friend to make it more fun and to motivate each other.

Check in with your doctor first. Ask if any activities are off limits. You may be able to do more than you think.

Got their approval? It’s time to make a plan.

Exercise for RA

To give your body everything it needs, make sure your workout plan covers these basics:

Cardio (aerobic exercise). Anything that gets your heart rate up counts. So what would you enjoy? Whether it’s hiking, low-impact aerobics, rowing, swimming, or dancing, it’s fair game. Aim for 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Strength training. You could do push-ups or other exercises that use your own body weight. Or you could use machines at a gym or hand-held weights you keep at home. Try out resistance bands, too.

It will take time to get stronger. Gradually make your strength-training workouts harder. Do them every other day. If you're new to weight-lifting, book a few sessions with a physical therapist or a trainer for pointers.

Flexibility. Do gentle stretches daily. They should be relaxing, and they shouldn’t hurt. They help you stay limber and move better.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on March 24, 2015

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