Get With the Program: 3 Types of Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
Developed with the assistance of Marian A. Minor, PT, PhD
For people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), exercise can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. But the real challenge is often just finding out what types of exercise are best for you.
that people with RA often benefit most from a program that contains 3 types of exercises: flexibility, aerobic or endurance, and strengthening. Many exercise classes and RA fitness programs combine all 3 into one session. The information below can help you learn about the basics. Check out the My RA Fit Kit to build a free, personalized RA fitness program.
Remember, always talk to your doctor or nurse before starting any new kind of physical activity.
Flexibility, or stretching, exercises keep joints and muscles limber. This type of exercise for rheumatoid arthritis patients can help maximize strength and mobility.
An example of a flexibility exercise for your shoulders and elbows is to reach up over your head with both hands. Then stretch your arms as far as you can to feel a comfortable stretch in your shoulders and elbows. Breathe normally, and hold this position for several seconds. Learn more flexibility exercises and build your own fitness program with the RA Fit Kit. »
Aerobic, or endurance, exercise improves your cardiovascular (heart) health and your endurance for daily activities. Aerobic exercise is anything that requires continuous movement of the large muscles of your body, such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or aerobics classes.
To get the health benefits of aerobic exercise, it is best to talk to your doctor or physical therapist so they can help develop a plan that is right for you. Get more aerobic exercises when you register for My RA Fit Kit »
Strength, or resistance, exercises improve strength in your muscles. Lifting weights and/or using weight machines are ways to make your muscles stronger. For most people with rheumatoid arthritis, these exercises should be done no more than 2 or 3 days a week.
Of course, these are only suggestions. There may be a strength exercise plan that is better suited to you. Get more strength exercises when you register for My RA Fit Kit »
Before starting any exercise regimen, check with your doctor to decide on a workout plan that is right for you and your rheumatoid arthritis.
Note: These tips should not replace advice from your physician. Always check with your physician before making any changes to your exercise habits.
- Metsios GS, Stavropoulos-Kalinoglou A, Veldhuijzen van Zanten JJCS, et al. Rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and physical exercise: a systematic review. Rheumatology. 2008;47:239-248.
- UCB and The Cooper Institute. My RA Fit Kit Web site. . Accessed June 6, 2011.