Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an inflammatory autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body, causing painful swelling in the joints. Some exercises can ease symptoms of RA in patients. But it’s difficult to find the motivation especially when you are in pain. However, some exercise may help increase your mood, joint function, prevent muscle loss and fatigue.
1. Yoga Exercises
Yoga includes breathing and relaxation exercise, which help ease RA symptoms in patients. Studies show that younger people with RA who practiced yoga experienced improvements, and they discovered related outcomes, such as fewer tender and swollen joint than they had before. (1, 2)
Yoga exercises can help RA patients enhance flexibility and movement.
2. Walking in the Park
Walking in the park is one of the most convenient exercise. It can loosen your joints, reduce pain, increase your heart rate, and boost your mood. Try using walking poles to help stabilize if you have difficulty with balance. If you are stuck in the climate, go to an indoor track or get on a treadmill. (3)
Walking may help loosen your joints, relieve pain, and enhance mood in RA patients.
3. Pilates Exercises
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the core and muscles around joints. People new to Pilates should start with a routine that safely increases muscle power by using a mat rather than a machine. (4)
Pilates exercises strengthens the structure of your body by balancing strength, mobility, and flexibility, which is effective in RA patients.
4. Hydrotherapy (water exercise)
According to the study, exercising in warm water can ease symptoms in RA patients. Study also shows that there was less pain and joint tenderness among RA patients who took part in hydrotherapy exercises. (5, 6)
Hydrotherapy can a enhance mood and overall health in RA patients.
5. Hand Exercises
RA will sometimes contribute to hand joint stiffness, which can keep you from doing everyday tasks. Bending the wrists up and down, curling the fingers gradually, spreading the fingers wide across a table and gripping a stress ball will all help to improve strength and flexibility in the hands.
Hand exercises may ease RA stiffness in your hands and make everyday tasks easier.
6. Biking Exercise
If you have RA, it’s important to pump your heart. This is because people with RA are at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, biking is an outstanding exercise with a low impact that is more manageable on the joints than other cardiovascular exercises. Biking helps keep the health of the cardiovascular and improves the power of the legs and decreases morning rigidity.
Biking may help maintain cardiovascular health and improves leg power in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
7. Tai Chi Exercise
Tai chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that combines mental focus with slow and gentle movements. This exercise enhances muscle function, reduces stiffness, and decreases pain in RA patients. After practicing tai chi, participants in one research reported feeling better. (7)
Tai chi may reduce stiffness and pain in RA patients.
8. Strength training
RA often leads to weak muscles that cause joint pain. Strength training enables you to reduce pain and boost muscle power. Stronger muscles support your joints in daily activities. As long as your fingers and wrists are in excellent form, you can pick up small weights. Always use strength bands to keep your joints healthy.
Strength training may increase muscle power in RA patients.
Stretching exercises are often recommended by health practitioners. It should include your arms, muscles, back, hips, front, back of thighs, and calves. Do some stretches in the morning, or perform stretching a few minutes in the office.
Stretching may improve flexibility in RA patients.
Gardening can provide many health benefits such as enhanced mood. You should be trained enough with your body and work slowly to avoid stress on muscles and joints.
Gardening is a healthy physical activity for those having arthritis, but it is necessary to avoid joint strain and injury.
Exercises To Avoid
RA patients should prevent hard or any pain-causing exercises. These may include high-impact exercises that place stress on the joints. There are no particular exercises that should be avoided by everyone with RA, however, each individual is unique, and an activity that makes one person’s pain may not have the same impact on another. What’s correct depends on the conditions. However, pay close attention to your body and taking advice from a doctor or physical therapist is always an excellent idea.
Exercises for RA patients are very helpful. It provides a variety of benefits, including relieving symptoms, enhancing joint function, building strength, increasing flexibility, and boosting mood. You’re likely to feel more pain in some days than others. That’s all right. Just exercise on those days with less intensity, try another kind of exercise, or take a day off. Before beginning any exercise programme, consult with your doctor or physical therapist. They will know which activities are appropriate for you.
- The center for mind-body research. Research Pilot Studies
- Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysisBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2015.
- Health Benefits of Water-based Exercise. Healthy Swimming. CDC, gov.
- Tai Chi for rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019.
- Effectiveness of an overall progressive resistance strength program for improving the functional capacity of patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2017.
- Impact of Iyengar Yoga on Quality of Life in Young Women With Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Clinical Journal of Pain: November 2013.
- Benefits of exercise in rheumatoid arthritis. J Aging Res. 2011.