Many people with rheumatoid arthritis avoid exercise for fear that it may make their arthritis worse. While it may be hard to exercise with arthritis, staying as active as possible has actually been shown to reduce pain and improve symptoms. This is because our bodies are designed to move.
Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects approximately 400,000 adults in the UK, is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints due to inflammation. Muscle weakness and fatigue are also commonly reported symptoms. People may also experience flare-ups, which are periods where their symptoms become worse.
Although there’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are many treatments available, such as disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. These ease symptoms, slow down the condition’s progress and reduce joint pain and inflammation. Lifestyle changes may also be recommended – including changing diet, or attending physiotherapy, which can help improve fitness, flexibility and strength.
But evidence also suggests that physical activity and exercise may help to manage rheumatoid arthritis. As people with rheumatoid arthritis often have worse muscle health even when in clinical remission than those without the condition, exercise may help improve strength and reduce weakness.