Rheumatoid arthritis: Is exercise important?

Which types of exercises are best for people who have rheumatoid arthritis? Which should be avoided?

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis tend to avoid exercise because they're afraid that the activity might worsen their joint pain. But exercise is one of the key treatments to help reduce the disability often associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Regular exercise can boost strength and flexibility in people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Stronger muscles can better support your joints, while improved flexibility can aid joint function.

Exercise can reduce fatigue and ease depression. And better overall fitness helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, two life-shortening ailments that often accompany rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis also accelerates the loss of muscle mass that typically occurs as people get older. That's why it's important to do exercises that will build muscle, in addition to aerobic exercises, which strengthen your heart and lungs.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, can help prevent a loss of bone density (osteoporosis), which can result from rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies indicate that exercise will not worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. But if rheumatoid arthritis has severely damaged your hips or knees, you may want to choose low-impact exercises, such as swimming, water aerobics, walking or bicycling.

Get the latest health information from Mayo Clinic’s experts.

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

July 31, 2020 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3D Printer Helps Hip
  2. 6 tips to manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
  3. C-reactive protein test
  4. Do infrared saunas have any health benefits?
  5. Does stress make rheumatoid arthritis worse?
  6. Ease rheumatoid arthritis pain when grocery shopping
  7. Elbow Replacement
  8. Elbow replacement surgery
  9. Fatigue
  10. Hip replacement
  11. Hip resurfacing: An alternative to conventional hip replacement?
  12. Hip Surgery Overview
  13. Hockey Coach Gets Hip
  14. How do I reduce fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis?
  15. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  16. Isometric exercise
  17. Joint pain
  18. Joint replacement
  19. Knee replacement
  20. Living better with rheumatoid arthritis
  21. Mangosteen juice: Can it relieve arthritis pain?
  22. MRI
  23. Outpatient joint replacement
  24. Partial shoulder replacement
  25. Physical therapy
  26. Prednisone risks, benefits
  27. Prednisone withdrawal: Why taper down slowly?
  28. Protect your joints while housecleaning
  29. Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis
  30. Rheumatoid arthritis
  31. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  32. Rheumatoid arthritis: Does pregnancy affect symptoms?
  33. Rheumatoid arthritis: Vaccines
  34. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the eyes?
  35. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the lungs?
  36. Rheumatoid arthritis medications: Dangerous during pregnancy?
  37. Rheumatoid arthritis pain: Tips for protecting your joints
  38. Rheumatoid factor
  39. Robotic-arm assisted knee resurfacing
  40. Sed rate (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)
  41. Seeing inside the heart with MRI
  42. Shoulder replacement surgery
  43. Cane tips
  44. Joint protection
  45. Spinal fusion
  46. Stem Cells Get Hip
  47. Symptom Checker
  48. Tai chi
  49. Tips to make your mornings easier
  50. Total shoulder replacement options
  51. Ultrasound
  52. Unexplained weight loss
  53. MRI
  54. Tai chi
  55. X-ray