Exercises For Rheumatoid Arthritis



Exercises For Rheumatoid Arthritis


These exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can really help you to cope with the condition if you are one of the 1{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} of the population that suffer with it. However it is important for you to understand that there is right time to do them, and there is definitely a wrong time to do them as well. This article will guide you through a series of simple exercises to help relieve rheumatoid arthritis, and explain when is the the most beneficial time to do them.

For more a more detailed explanation of Rheumatoid Arthritis, click here.

O635IZFQ7JIf you are experiencing a flare up of your RA and the arthritis is actively inflamed, or if you have extensive joint damage, then do not perform these exercises. Instead, you may want to do some basic movements and gentle stretches in a pool, like walking or gentle swimming. This will make sure you do not aggravate things further, plus it will also help to prevent flexion contractures (shortening of tendons). Hydrotherapy has been shown to be highly beneficial for RA sufferers.

It is important when starting any exercise program to take it easy when you begin, especially if you have not exercised for a while. Start with small amounts of gentle movements. Any exercise you do should be tolerable. This is particularly important with rheumatoid arthritis. It is also important to include active exercise, such as walking, to restore or maintain muscle mass, and preserve joint movement. Remember that when starting exercise, it should not lead to fatigue.


The following list of exercises are pictured using a Theraband, an elastic band that provides resistance. Start the exercises as described, but without using any resistance to begin with. Once comfortable doing the exercises, you may wish to add the Theraband.

Start with repetitions of each exercise, on each side, building up to 30 reps.


Hip flexionHip Flexion (Standing)

  • Attach elastic to secure object at ankle level.
  • Loop band around ankle.
  • Stand, facing away from the pull.
  • Extend leg forward, keeping knee straight.
  • Slowly return to start position and repeat.




Hip flexion sitHip Flexion (Sitting)

  • Sit in chair.
  • Loop elastic around thigh slightly above knee,stabilize ends of band under opposite foot.
  • Lift one leg up, slowly return.
  • Repeat.




Hip extHip Extension

  • Attach elastic to secure object at ankle level.
  • Loop around ankle.
  • Stand, facing toward the pull.
  • Extend leg backward, keeping knee straight.
  • Slowly return to start position.





Hip abdHip Abduction

  • Attach elastic to secure object at ankle level.
  • Stand with involved leg away as shown.
  • Keep knee straight, pull away, moving leg outward.
  • Slowly return to start position.





Hip addHip Adduction

  • Attach elastic to secure object at ankle level.
  • Stand with involved leg toward pull, as shown.
  • Keep knee straight, pull in, moving leg inward.
  • Slowly return to start position




mini squatMinisquat

  • Place elastic under feet, hold in hands and keep elbows straight.
  • Stand with feet shoulder distance apart.
  • Slowly bend knees to 45 degrees.
  • Return to standing position.
  • Slowly return to start position and repeat.





  • Stand with one foot on middle of band. Grasp ends of band and loop around hands at chest level, keeping elbows bent.
  • Place other leg behind with knee slightly bent.
  • Keep trunk straight and bend front knee, lowering body downward. 
  • Slowly return to upright position and repeat




knee flex sitKnee Flexion (Sitting)

  • Attach elastic to secure object.
  • Sit in chair, attach elastic to ankle of involved leg as shown.
  • Pull heel under chair through full range, as shown.
  • Slowly return to starting position




knee flex proneKnee Flexion (Prone)

  • Attach elastic to secure object.
  • Attach elastic to ankle of involved leg as shown.
  • Lie face down.
  • Begin with knee straight.
  • Bend knee through available range.
  • Slowly return to starting position.


knee extKnee Extension (Sitting)

  • Attach elastic to ankle of involved leg.
  • Secure behind as shown.
  • Sit, with leg bent to 90 degrees, as shown.
  • Straighten leg at knee.
  • Slowly return to start position.



knee ext proneKnee Extension (Prone)

  • Lie face down, attach elastic to ankle.
  • Attach other end of elastic to secure object near head or shoulders.
  • Begin with knee bent.
  • Extend knee against pull of band.
  • Slowly return to start position and repeat



You will notice that these exercises focus on the legs. Research has shown that lower limb rehabilitation is vital for RA sufferers to prevent disability.

Similar exercises can be performed using the upper limb, or arm.  For example, lifting your arm straight up to the side over your head, then the same in front. Pulling your arm across in front of you; performing a ‘rowing’ movement; and also biceps curls by bending your elbow, bringing your fist to your shoulder. Again, start without resistance and move up to using a Theraband.



  1. These are some really great exercises. Even if you don’t suffer from (RA). I use to exercise regularly, but then had to stop due to a pulled back. I now have to be careful in what I do. These look like they would be great to get back into it again. Due you have recommendations on resistance bands? Do they come in different tensions? Thank you for the information.

    • Hi Larry,

      Resistance bands are much the same. Theraband is the leader in the field with a solid history of quality and research, which is why we recommend them.

      The resistance bands do come in different tensions. Most people will start on the lowest tension, and progress from there if needed. They are surprisingly strong, and can provide a good workout!

      Have an amazing day!

      Dr Brad

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this important and informative post. Performing these exercises and taking the correct food or nutrition will definitely help. We have to take enough effort to study and change our lifestyle when we got health problem like RA. Thanks again for the information.

    • Hi Axton,

      You are right, diet and nutrition along with exercise makes a huge difference not just to RA, but to our whole health and wellbeing.

      This post goes into more detail regarding specific diet and supplements for RA, http://bit.ly/1TIZEGn

      All the best,

      Dr Brad

  3. Hello Dr. Brad, really good information. I have early stage of RA. The bigger problem that I have is that my RA are in both of my feet. My Dr. told me that is nothing I can do. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Hi Julius,

      If you click on the ‘natural cures’ link at the bottom of the article it will detail several different actions you can take to ease the severity and progression of RA.

      All the best,

      Dr Brad

    • Hi Carl,

      The pendulum swing exercise is very good at loosening up and mobilising a stiff shoulder without putting any strain on the joint.

      Start by leaning forwards and let your arm hang straight down as loosely as possible. The you simply swing your arm very gently in a circular motion (about 1 foot diameter) one way for 10 circles, then the other way for 10 circles. Do this once per day. As symptoms improve, you can increase the diameter of the circles, and the number of circles you do. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT FORCE THE MOTION SO AS NOT TO AGGRAVATE YOUR SHOULDER.

      You can even start to use a light weight as well once your shoulder is symptom free.

      Kind regards,

      Dr Brad

  4. I was 36 years old and my 2nd child was one year old when I noticed one of my fingers was inflamed, swollen. The swelling wouldn’t subside. Tests showed RA (Rheumatoid arthritis). Then progressively other joints started to get affected and I had much pain, dressing myself was very painful. I would ring my mother in tears not knowing what was happening to my body. I tried numerous medicines nothing worked. Finally, the rheumatologist suggested I try the natural medicines you have recommended. I had a total decline of symptoms with this treatment, the pains, stiffness, swelling, body weakness and skin redness has subsided. Incredible! Thanks for the advice.

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