Yoga has been shown to improve physical function, strength and flexibility in people living with rheumatoid arthritis. For some people with RA, it may be necessary to modify certain yoga poses to minimize joint stress.
Tai Chi has been found to improve muscle strength, endurance, mood and quality of life in people with RA. Overall physical function may also improve, but, like yoga, some poses may need to be modified to protect the joints.
Stretching can help maintain or improve flexibility in joints and surrounding muscles, which contributes to better posture and overall function. It also may help reduce the risk for injuries. Holding each stretch for 30 seconds, and perform stretching exercises three days a week for the best results.
Range of motion
Range of motion (ROM) exercises are often used in therapeutic programs, as they can improve joint stiffness and flexibility. Some people find that doing ROM exercises in the evening helps reduce joint stiffness the next morning. In most cases, it’s best to do ROM exercises five to 10 times a day.
Water exercise or water aerobics can be a good alternative for people with RA. The water can provide some resistance, while also being easy on the joints.
Resistance training and strengthening exercises are important, as strong muscles can provide greater joint support and reduce the load and stress through the joint. Healthy muscle can also improve function and help reduce bone loss from inactivity. Weight resistance should challenge the muscles without increasing joint pain. Even lifting a limb against gravity is a form of resistance training.
When doing aerobic exercises, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what is safe for you. For some people with RA, that might mean walking, using a stationary bike or elliptical trainer. For others, daily activities, such as raking leaves, walking the dog or doing housework may be sufficient.