Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can cause pain and stiffness that makes moving the last thing you want to do. Staying active is essential, not only is it beneficial for your general health — it's also a way to strengthen your joints, improve your range of motion, and give you the opportunity to take part in the activities you enjoy.

Massage Therapy is a proven method for reducing the joint pain associated with RA

For people with RA, it's best to take a cautious and strategic approach when starting an exercise program. An individualized program — ideally developed with the help of a physical therapist — can help you protect vulnerable joints while strengthening surrounding muscles. A well-rounded exercise program should include each of these elements:

  • Aerobic conditioning: While you want something that will increase your heart rate and breathing rate, you should consider low-impact exercises such as swimming, bicycle riding, and walking.

  • Resistance training: Isometric exercises — exercises that involve muscle contractions with no movement, such as clasping your hands and pressing your arms together — can be a great way to start resistance training. When your pain is under control, feel free to include free weights or weight machines.

  • Stretching and flexibility exercises: Activities that lengthen and strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, such as stretching exercises, tai chi, and yoga, especially important for people with RA.

  • Balance exercise: Because people with RA have more trouble with gait and balance a physical therapist can recommend individualized balance-training exercises. These may include practicing standing on one leg or exercises to strengthen core muscles.

Source: “Exercise can ease rheumatoid arthritis pain”, Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, December 201