10 Best Exercises For Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient
Exercise is one of the key treatments to help reduce the disability often associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows that RA patients who exercise have less pain than other RA patients.
Regular exercise can boost muscle strength and joint flexibility in people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Stronger muscles can better support your joints, while improved flexibility can aid joint function.
The following types of exercise may help relieve the pain, joint stiffness, and other symptoms that RA can cause. With RA, it's important to move!
Stretching can help improve flexibility, reduce stiffness, and increase range of motion. Stretching daily is important for relieving RA symptoms.
Healthcare professionals often recommend stretching for RA patients. Stretching should include the muscles of your arms, your back, your hips, the front and back of your thighs, and calves. Do some stretches first thing in the morning, take a stretch break instead of a coffee break, or stretch in the office for a few minutes.”
Dr. Naheed Ali, author of “Arthritis and You,” recommends finger curling, mild wrist bending, and thumb stretching as well.
The ideal stretching routine will be different for each person and depend on which joints are affected and what symptoms occur. However, stretches often involve slowly and gently moving the joints of the knees, hands, and elbows.
A typical stretching routine may consist of:
warming up by walking in place or pumping the arms while sitting or standing for 3–5 minutes.
holding each stretch for 20–30 seconds before releasing it.
repeating each stretch 2–3 times. Using a yoga strap may help people maintain proper form while stretching. If someone does not have a yoga strap, they could use an alternative such as a dog leash.
According to the , people with RA show greater improvements in health after participating in hydrotherapy—exercising in warm water—than with other activities. show that people with RA who participated in hydrotherapy had less pain and joint tenderness. Hydrotherapy also improved their mood and overall well-being.
Water-based exercises, like swimming and water aerobics, also improve the use of affected joints and decrease pain.
Tai chi (sometimes called “moving meditation”) is a traditional Chinese martial art that combines slow and gentle movements with mental focus. This exercise improves muscle function and stiffness and reduces pain and stress levels in patients with RA. Participants in one reported feeling better after practicing tai chi and had an overall brighter outlook on life. You can find videos on Youtube to help you get started, or go to a class in your area.
If you have RA, getting your heart pumping is essential. This is because those with RA are at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and complications. Biking is an excellent, low-impact exercise that’s easier on the joints than other aerobic exercises.
Biking helps maintain cardiovascular health, increases leg strength, and reduces morning stiffness. You can bike outside, join a cycling group, or use a stationary bike at the gym or in your home.
A walk in the park may sound too simple, but it’s one of the easiest and most convenient forms of exercise. In addition to getting your heart rate up, walking can loosen your joints and help reduce pain. Research has found that just 30 minutes of walking a day can boost your mood, too.
If you’re having trouble with balance, try using walking poles to help stabilize yourself. If the weather has you stuck inside, head to an indoor track or get on a treadmill instead.
Yoga or yoga stretching can help patients improve flexibility and range of motion.
Yoga, which combines postures with breathing and relaxation, also helps improve RA symptoms. Studies show that younger individuals with RA who practiced yoga experienced improvements in pain and mood. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University found similar results: RA patients had fewer tender and swollen joints than they did before practicing yoga.
Pilates is a low-impact activity that flexibility for enhanced joint health.
It can be helpful to do Pilates poses that activate the core muscles and emphasize movements that help with stability. Pilates can be good for overall movement patterns, similar to tai chi and yoga.
People new to Pilates should begin slowly and seek guidance from a certified trainer if possible.
RA can sometimes lead to limited use of the hands. A person with RA may lose their grip strength or find that they are dropping things.
Bending the wrists up and down, slowly curling the fingers, spreading the fingers wide on a table, and squeezing a stress ball can all help increase strength and flexibility in the hands.
Light gardening a beneficial exercise for a person with RA.
People should be gentle with their body, work slowly, and avoid overstraining the muscles and joints.
A person can avoid overstraining by avoiding bending and twisting in ways that can aggravate the lower back. A gardener should make sure to properly hinge at the hips when working in the garden.
RA often leads to weakened muscles, which can worsen joint pain. Strength training helps decrease pain and increase muscle strength. Stronger muscles better support your joints and make daily activities much easier.
Try lifting weights at home two to three times a week. You can also try resistance bands, as long as your fingers and wrists are in good shape. Talk to your doctor and consider working with a personal trainer if you’re anxious about lifting weights or using resistance bands on your own.
Please Note: Adjust to your condition
Whichever exercise you choose, the important thing is to keep at it. Some days you’re likely to feel more pain than others. That’s Okay. Just exercise with less intensity on those days, try a different type of exercise, or take a day off.
If your hands can’t grip a weight, use a resistance band around your forearm instead. If all you can do is walk, then go for a stroll outside. Even if it’s at a slow pace, you’ll likely feel much better afterwards.