Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis

By on August 1, 2013

By Tammy Mahan –

While you may not want to exercise because of the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the pain associated with it can actually be reduced or prevented with regular exercise. The risk of health problems including diabetes and heart disease is reduced as well.  It also helps to reduce pain and stiffness in joints, strengthen muscles, increase mobility of joints and psychological well-being is improved. You should check with your doctor before starting an exercise program of any kind.

Exercise Guidelines

It is recommended that you start exercise programs slowly and make gradual progress so that your tolerance level is determined. Injury can result from repetitive or rapid movement with the joints that are affected making it best to avoid them. Exercises should be adapted to protect the joints.

Daily Activities

The pain of RA can be reduced through daily activity. Everyone, whether they have RA or not, should get thirty minutes of physical activity most days. Raking, gardening, climbing stairs and walking, and occupational activities of a moderate intensity are a good place to start.

Aerobic Activity

An activity that increases the heart rate for a sustained period is aerobic exercise. Walking and water aerobics are gentle aerobic exercise associated with improved physical performance and pain reduction. You might benefit from high-impact, higher-intensity exercise if there is no damage to the joints that bear weight. The Netherlands’ Leiden University Medical Center researcher and rheumatologist Zuzana de Jong stated that those who engage in high-intensity workouts like jogging experienced improved daily functioning and mood. Exercise that puts less stress on the joints may benefit you when there is damage to the joints that bear weight.

Strength Training

You could benefit from exercises for strength training if there is RA in the joints that bear weight. Those that performed two twelve repetition sets of nine exercises three times a week showed performance and ability improvements that were significant and their pain was reduced according to the Fitness Arthritis and Seniors Trail. Leg extensions, step up, leg curls, chest fly, heel raise, pelvic tilt, bicep curl, military press and upright row are exercises for strength training.

Range of Motion

It is easy to overstretch joints that are affected and they are more prone to injury making it inadvisable to perform simple stretching exercises. The remodeling and repair of cartilage is stimulated by regular decompression and compression. Your doctor can recommend range of motion exercises that can aid in maintaining the use of joints and flexibility.

Additional Benefits

The pain from the damaged joints might cause depression and fatigue in those suffering from arthritis. Energy can be increased and depression decreased in addition to the natural therapy that improves mobility of the joints provided by exercise according to the Arthritis Foundation. The symptoms associated with osteoarthritis in the hips and knees are increased with obesity, and exercise helps to reduce weight.

Expert Insight

It is advised by the Arthritis Foundation that a doctor’s recommendations be sought prior to starting an exercise program. Some activities can cause harm if you have arthritis, making advice from a doctor even more important. Visit the website for the Arthritis Foundation or contact your local chapter to find programs, health care facilities and community groups to aid those with arthritis. You may also be referred to a physical therapist in order to have an exercise routine designed that fits your specific goals and concerns.

 

Tammy Mahan has 20 years of nursing experience. She often contributes articles to Healthline.com.

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Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis