tai-chi woman in park

Exercising with Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you’ve got rheumatoid arthritis and want to exercise, you should take a cautious approach when you begin an exercise program. Ask your doctor what’s right for you; you might also consider a program developed with a physical therapist. The experts at Harvard Medical School share the following tips for help protect joints while strengthening surrounding muscles.

Aerobic conditioning. You can benefit from this kind of exercise, the Harvard experts say. It increases your heart rate and breathing rate and it works to lower risk for diabetes, stroke and heart disease. The Harvard experts suggest that you consider low-impact exercises such as swimming, bicycle riding and walking.

Resistance training. If you have weak muscles because of inactivity or side effects of medications like steroids, you’re at risk of losing stamina. Your joints may also become less stable. The Harvard experts suggest isometric exercise. Once your pain is under control, the Harvard experts say, free weights or weight machines can help increase strength, the Harvard experts say.

Stretching and flexibility exercises. Joints that have been damaged by rheumatoid arthritis don’t move as easily or to the same degree as healthy joints. Because of that, the Harvard experts say, it’s important to engage in activities that make the muscles surrounding your joints longer and stronger. This kind of exercise includes stretching, tai chi and yoga.

Balance exercises. Having rheumatoid arthritis can lead to problems with walking and balance, meaning that you’re more at risk for stumbles and falls. The Harvard experts say that a physical therapist can recommend individualized balance-training exercises. These may include, they say, practicing standing on one leg or other exercises to strengthen muscles.

To learn more about exercises to help rheumatoid arthritis and how to take control by protecting your joints, reducing pain, and improving mobility, buy Rheumatoid Arthritis, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.