Exercise and Rest for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

(RxWiki News) Getting plenty of exercise and rest are crucial for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

It is very important that people who have rheumatoid arthritis get enough exercise and rest. Experts suggest people with common forms of arthritis follow standard recommendations for physical activity as a key part of their care. This includes rheumatoid arthritis.

Physical therapy and the joint protection offered by products such as braces, splints, and assistive devices are often helpful, especially during flares.

In general, a person with rheumatoid arthritis should strive for the following:

  • At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) on a minimum of five days a week
  • Some form of strength training at least twice a week
  • Exercises that promote flexibility, balance, and coordination

Fatigue can be the most incapacitating aspect of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Taking a rest break when your joints are inflamed can help.
  • In the short term, complete bed rest may be needed when severe inflammation occurs in multiple joints.

Even when your joints are inflamed, you can still perform gentle stretching exercises. This will help keep your joints mobile. This will also prevent flexion contracture (loss of joint motion due to shortening of the surrounding tissues). For example:

  • Do not remain seated for a long time. Stand up periodically.
  • If your hip or knee joints are painful, lie in a face-down position on a firm bed for about 15 minutes several times a day.
  • Apply removable splints to inflamed joints. This helps to alleviate muscle spasms and reduce the likelihood of deformities.


When your joints are not inflamed, you should engage in moderate aerobic exercise. This will increase your endurance and keep your joints flexible.

  • Even vigorous activity is fine if you feel up to it and do not already have significant damage in your large joints.
  • After vigorous exercise, however, you may need to take additional medications, such as aspirin. This helps control pain and inflammation.
  • A gentler alternative for people with rheumatoid arthritis is water exercise in a heated pool.
  • Exercising in water reduces stress on your weight-bearing joints.
  • Plus, the water’s heat relaxes your muscles.

When your joints are inflamed, only do gentle exercises such as bending and straightening the joint.

  • Gentle stretching exercises can help you maintain mobility in your hands.
  • As joint inflammation subsides, you can gradually begin resistance exercises. This may involve light weights or working against your own body weight.
  • Also avoid any exercise that causes increased pain an hour later.