How Exercise Benefits Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Jan 14, 2020

While rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, makes your joints feel painful and stiff, you may find relief with exercise. However, plan your exercise carefully based on your condition. Read on to learn more about why you shouldn’t avoid exercise if you have RA, beneficial types of exercise for this condition, and how to make exercise easier.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, refraining from exercising can accelerate certain problems compared to people who don’t have the disease and don’t exercise. Because RA is an autoimmune disease, your own immune system increases substances that cause severe inflammation that directly affects your muscles. Here are some ways that exercise specifically benefits RA.

Reduces Muscle Wasting

Because of the inflammatory immune response of RA, you are more likely to lose muscle faster than the typical person, especially as you get older. Exercise helps you maintain, and potentially build up more muscle, slowing down any deterioration.

Improves Cardiovascular Health

The inflammatory issues with RA, combined with increased muscle wasting, puts you are at higher risk of cardiovascular issues. Cardiovascular exercise, done with the permission of your doctor, can increase heart strength and improve its function.

Maintains Mobility

Exercise builds up the muscles that support your joints to provide less stress on them and more stability. Exercise also maintains, or even increases, flexibility which makes movement and mobility easier.

Increases Energy

Because exercise helps relieve some of the inflammation and muscle problems associated with RA, you are more likely to feel energized when you have a regular and appropriate exercise program. Some people with RA also feel that they have better sleep when they exercise regularly.

Types of Beneficial Exercises

While exercise is important if you have RA, you must choose your exercise regimen carefully. For most people with RA, extreme high-intensity, high-impact exercise is painful and detrimental to their condition. Working out at a high athletic level, such as in professional sports, is extremely difficult. However, you can work out at an intense level if you keep your RA in mind when you choose your activity. Here are some examples of exercises that people with RA may find beneficial.


This type of low-impact exercise has cardiovascular benefits and is especially helpful for RA as puts less weight and pressure on your joints, so you might find that you can participate in it for a longer duration.


Cycling also has great cardiovascular and muscle-building benefits for people with RA. Be mindful of proper position so that you don’t put pressure on your knees and back that could make your condition worse.


Walk at a brisk pace to get those cardiovascular benefits, but build up slowly as RA often affects your ankles. Over time, you will notice improvements in both speed and strength.

Weight Training

Working with weights is an excellent way to maintain your muscle mass and even gain strength as long as you are careful of your joints and know your limits.


When you have RA, stretching is an extremely important step to complete before each exercise session, and it also helps with balance and coordination.

You may find that sports that involve sudden twists or joint pressure, such as running or racket sports, are difficult with RA. However, some people have found ways to play these sports with proper treatment and training. Don’t push yourself during painful periods, however.

Reasons to Team Up With Your Rheumatologist

If you have RA, and you like to exercise or participate in a sport, then you must see a rheumatologist to help you manage your condition. You may need medications and physical therapy so that you can stay active. With good management, you may eventually reach a remission and enter into a long, pain-free period.

If your RA is out of control, or you want to begin an exercise regiment, then Sarasota Arthritis Center can help you. Call us to set up an appointment so that we can get started on your treatment program.

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