The Best Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Why do people wait until new years to start setting health/fitness goals? If there is any time to reignite this, it’s when the weather is nice out!

Being outside in nature can uplift your spirits when you’re having a bad day and rejuvenate you. It’s also a good time to try out new hobbies and get creative in your workouts, so you can try them again once the weather starts to get better, depending on where you live.

Exercising can help reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling. There are times when ice, rest and elevating is needed. However, avoiding physical activity because something hurts can lead to muscle loss and weight gain, two things you don’t want with JA or RA.

Strong muscles protect our joints and surrounding soft tissues, by keeping everything in place. When this occurs you can help the progression of joint damage.

So the adage applies here: Move it or lose it!  If you don’t you risk entering a cycle of disease progression. This is not to say to forgo your medication or other treatment methods, simply using this as a tool to enhance your well-being in combination with everything else you do can yield to positive benefits and even remission.

Take stock next time of how you feel after your workout or being outside to catch the fresh air or sun. You most likely feel stronger, healthier, more grounded, at peace, happy and confident.

The Journal of Aging Research found that high-intensity exercise training in stable RA, “was more effective than low-intensity training in increasing aerobic capacity, muscle strength, joint mobility and physical function with no detrimental effect on disease activity in patients with controlled and active RA.”

There are some days when you need low-intensity workouts though, just to give your body, muscles, and joints a rest. So mixing it up between low and high intensity, is beneficial too.


Here are some basic exercises and tips, you can try or do more of if you feel you’re slacking:

·     Stretching

·     Walk

·     Hike

·     Yoga

·     Tai Chi

·     Pilates

·     Swimming

·     Bike Riding

·     Strength training

·     Weight lifting

·     Don’t neglect smaller joints such as your hands, wrists, toes, or elbows. Stretch and work out these areas daily. A good time to do this is first thing in the morning when you wake up. Make it a habit of moving your hands and feet. See some of the workouts in the resources below.


 *Note: Everyone has different needs. If you find it difficult to do a particular exercise, many modified versions can be tailored to your body. This is a good conversation to have with your rheumatologist, so they can send you to see a physical therapist, occupational therapist or even a personal trainer, that can work one on one with you.



Exercise as Treatment for Arthritis (Cleveland Clinic) 

Best Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis (Arthritis Foundation) 

Benefits of Exercise in Rheumatoid Arthritis (Journal of Aging Research) 

Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis (WebMD) 

Relieve Rheumatoid Arthritis Foot, Ankle and Toe Pain with these Movements (Everyday Health)