Exercise is unlikely to cause the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to flare up. Studies show that the risk of RA symptom flare-ups is quite low. The effects of exercise on people with RA in studies included:

  • No change in the number of swollen or tender joints after 12 weeks of aerobic exercise.
  • Less swelling and pain in joints after 12 weeks of exercise. But people who did not exercise did not have these improvements.
  • 2 years of high-intensity exercise did not cause a rise in joint damage. This is compared to people who did not exercise.
  • After a 6-month high-intensity exercise program, the score of RA disease activity (the DAS28 score) went down. A lower DAS28 score means less symptoms of RA.
  • Markers of inflammation did NOT change with exercise in 7 studies. These included blood tests for C-reactive protein (CRP) and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).

Talk to your doctor about what is the best exercise program for you. The chance that your joint symptoms will get worse because of exercise is low. It is still important that the exercises you do are approved by your doctor or even a physical therapist.

Don’t be afraid, exercise is okay for RA!