Rheumatoid Arthritis and Exercise

If you have arthritis there’s a lot you can do to help yourself, starting with the right sort of exercise. The Arthritis Foundation has prepared this feature to help you start today.

Exercise can help to

  • decrease pain
  • strengthen muscles
  • strengthen bones and minimise osteoporosis (thin bones)
  • maintain and increase joint movement
  • increase heart and lung fitness
  • improve posture
  • control weight and reduce body fat
  • relieve muscle tension
  • decrease stress levels
  • enhance body shape
  • improve sleep patterns
  • create a feeling of well-being
  • develop a positive attitude and healthier lifestyle

Why Exercise With Arthritis

To relieve and prevent the problems associated with arthritis: such as stiffness, muscle weakness, joint deformity, dependence on others, stress and depression. Weight-bearing exercise help to minimise the effects of osteoporosis.

Rest-Exercise Balance

If you have arthritis you must fine right balance between exercise and: Careful attention to rest, exercise and way we hold our joints is an important part of pain management. Rest is needed to settle an inflamed joint or general flare-up, but too much rest will weaken muscles and increase stiffness. So use these principles as a guide:

  1. When joints are inflamed, rest is needed. The amount and type will depend on how inflamed your joint is.
  2. If joints ache only on certain movements, have a rest from those movements.

Types of Exercise

There are three main types of exercise: Mobility—designed to maintain or increase the range of motion of a joint. It is a good idea to take all your joints through r full range of motion each day. Remember that being busy (for example, doing housework) is not exercising. Pay vial attention to joints that are stiff, as need more exercise. However, never force a stiff joint to move more than it is able. (See exercise nos. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10.)

  1. Strengthening—designed to increase the power of muscles. This will help joints to bear weight, to move objects, and to maintain strong, stable joints. isometrics are good strengthening exercises for joints with arthritis, because they involve tightening muscles without moving joints. (See exercise nos. 3, 4, 5, 6.)
  2. Fitness—has a beneficial effect on the heart and lung system and increases general body fitness. Good examples for people with arthritis are swimming, walking, cycling and dancing. Always progress slowly with these exercises. All of the above exercises need to be included in your weekly exercise routine for arthritis.

Exercise Guidelines

  1. Try to perform your exercise program three or four times each week.
  2. Concentrate on quality rather than quantity—better to do less properly, than many poorly.
  3. Move your joints slowly and smoothly—do not jerk them.
  4. Be aware of pain and swelling and exercise gently if either is present.
  5. If pain after exercise lasts more than two hours, it means you’ve overdone it—so do less next time. Perhaps you need to change your program?
  6. Muscles and joints are exercised more effectively when they’re warmed up— after a bath or shower may be a good time.
  7. Exercising in warm water is a good way to exercise your whole body, because the buoyancy of the water supports the joints so they can move easily and freely. It also helps tight muscles to relax.
  8. Do not continue with an exercise that causes severe pain.
  9. If you have a joint replacement, check with your surgeon or physiotherapist about what movements to avoid.


  • Exercise when you are
  • Least stiff
  • Have least pain
  • Are least tired
  • And when your medications are working most effectively
  • Posture Guidelines
  • Correct posture should become a way of life.
  • Have a short rest period daily—lie as fiat as possible with all your joints au: straight.
  • Avoid sitting in low, soft chairs. Ensure there is an adequate backrest, with you: hips at right angles and your feet resting comfortably on the floor or stool.
  • Stand as tall as possible, but be comfortable.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for Ion,: periods
  • How to Be Successful in Your Exercise Program
  • Start slowly—then progress gradually.
  • Set weekly goals—be realistic. make a contract with yourself—write down.
  • Exercise with a friend.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a good general fitness level.
  • Try to develop a balanced program of :nobility, strengthening, and fitness exercises
  • Have the right equipment—wear supportive shock-absorbing footwear
  • Sec a physiotherapist for expert advice :: an exercise program, and for individual attention.
  • Find the correct balance between exercise and rest.
  • Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program if you have any medical problems, such as: asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, high blood pressure, obesity, or if you are or have been a smoker.

Some Exercise Examples

  • Exercise should be fun, so find a way of exercising your body that you enjoy.
  • Here are some suggestions:
  • General fitness activities—swimming, walking, jogging, cycling, dancing.
  • Classes—fitness, stretch, hydrotherapy (water exercises), aquarobics,
  • Sports—tennis, table tennis, bowls, golf, badminton, croquet and others.

Individual exercise routine to perform at home. If you have arthritis you need to exercise your joints daily. Remember to consult a physiotherapist for your personal exercise program, for specific treatment on joints and posture advice.