Rheumatoid Arthritis and Exercise

Maintaining a balance between rest and exercise is important for this condition. While resting might provide relief from pain, lack of movement can lead to stiffness in the joints and weakening of muscles. Isometric exercises, which involve static positions, can be beneficial in such cases. These exercises are performed without significant joint movement, helping maintain joint angles and muscle length. Many yoga poses are suitable for isometric exercises. Trying these exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist can help determine which ones are suitable for you.

Engaging in exercise benefits joint and muscle health, as well as cardiovascular and overall health. If a certain exercise movement causes joint pain, swelling, or increased warmth, it’s best to discontinue that movement and rest. Straining the joint with such movements could exacerbate the pain.

Some exercises recommended for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Biking (if it doesn’t cause knee discomfort)
  • Yoga and Tai Chi

Contact sports involving physical contact (such as football or basketball) and high-intensity exercises (like tennis or step aerobics) are not recommended for RA. Swimming is particularly beneficial for RA, as water partially supports your weight and reduces the load on the joints. If you plan to join a gym, it’s important to have your program designed by a professional trainer who is aware of your condition.

The choice of footwear during sports activities and daily life also matters. Selecting shoes that absorb shock and impact on the soles is essential.


While there isn’t a specific diet that can completely cure rheumatoid arthritis, certain diets have shown potential benefits for some patients. It’s recommended to reduce the consumption of saturated fats and increase intake of unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish). If your omega-3 intake is insufficient through diet alone, your doctor may provide supplements. Increasing vitamin C intake can also contribute positively.

Some studies have suggested that a strict vegetarian diet might lead to reduced RA symptoms, although the exact reasons aren’t clear. On the other hand, a high consumption of red meat has been associated with a slight increase in the lifetime risk of developing RA. Before starting any strict diet, it’s advisable to discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages with your attending doctor and a registered dietitian.

Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding excessive consumption of sugars and processed foods can help manage inflammation and overall health. Remember that individual responses to diets can vary, and it’s important to work with healthcare professionals to find an approach that suits your specific needs and conditions.