Arthritis Home > How Often to Exercise, What Kinds Are Best, and When to Stop

How Often Should People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercise?

A regular routine is important with all types of exercise for rheumatoid arthritis:
 
  • Range-of-motion exercises can be done daily and should be done at least every other day.
     
  • Strengthening exercises should be done every other day unless you have severe pain or swelling in your joints.
     
  • Endurance exercises should be done for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week unless you have severe pain or swelling in your joints. According to the American College of Rheumatology, 20- to 30-minute exercise routines can be performed in increments of 10 minutes over the course of a day.
     

What Type of Strengthening Program Is Best?

This varies depending on personal preference, the type of rheumatoid arthritis involved, and how active the inflammation is. Strengthening one's muscles can help take the burden off painful joints. Strength training can be done with small free weights, exercise machines, isometrics, elastic bands, and resistive water exercises. Correct positioning is critical, because if done incorrectly, strengthening exercises can cause muscle tears, more pain, and more joint swelling.
 

How Much Exercise Is Too Much?

Most experts agree that if exercise causes pain that lasts for more than one hour, it is too strenuous. People with rheumatoid arthritis should work with their physical therapist or doctor to adjust their exercise program when they notice any of the following signs of strenuous exercise:
 
  • Unusual or persistent fatigue
  • Increased weakness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Increased joint swelling
  • Continuing pain (pain that lasts more than 1 hour after exercising).
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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