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'll feel better. A good workout 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 with your doctor first. Ask if any activities are off-limits. You may be able to do more than you think.

Exercise for RA

Got the doc’s approval? It’s time to make a plan. To give your body everything it needs, make sure your exercise plan covers these basics:

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

Strength training. You could do pushups or other exercises that use your body weight. You can also use machines at a gym or hand-held weights at home. Try out resistance bands, too.

It’ll take time to get stronger. Make your strength training workouts harder over time. Do them every other day. If you're new to weightlifting, 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’ll help you stay limber and move better.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 19, 2019



American College of Rheumatology: "Exercise and Arthritis."

University of Washington Medicine: "Exercise and Arthritis."

Cooney, J.K. Journal of Aging Research, online, Feb. 13, 2011.

Harvard Health Publications: "Joint inflammation may raise risk of heart disease."

Arthritis Foundation: "Introduction to Exercise."

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.