How can I train / exercise with RA pain.: Hi once again... - NRAS


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How can I train / exercise with RA pain.


Hi once again

I sincerely hope that you are as near to painless as is possible for you right now.

My question is , I am concerned with my lack of exercise because of obvious pain and wonder if any of you know best how to work with the pain but still able to perform Cardiovascular exercise and lift weights etc.

I have been a gym bunny for years until recently diagnosed with RA and am struggling mentally with the idea of never training and becoming unhealthy and putting on weight which will obviously not help my RA !

Any help / tips would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

Shy & retiring

24 Replies

Gym bunny I am not but swimmer I am and cycling. Balance a bit off so have to wait re cycling as come off a few times. However just bought an exercise bike and this is helping to build legs back up. Not overdoing it but least I feel that I am moving forward again. Lifting weights you might find causes stress on joints and maybe discuss with your RA team if possible.

Another no for weight lifting! If you have active inflammation you can do quite a bit of damage.

Have you thought about changing your priorities to suppleness and flexibility with core strength, rather than muscle building? Do you do pilates or yoga? If you don’t you might be surprised at how much work it is, and how much it exercises you (without pain). A completely different type of discipline but one I find works well with RA.

Combined with some cardio this can be a pretty good regime. Cardio obviously difficult right now as things like swimming aren’t possible. I can’t stand exercise bikes, so my alternative is walking as fast as I can up very steep hills. But then I happen to have a 100m cliff opposite my house which makes it easy. Hard if you live in Cambridgeshire!

Or cross fit trainers? You used to be able to find reasonable value second hand ones.

Agree with what everyone else has said. In normal times, swimming is great.

Pilates and yoga are good right now to help keep in shape. This NHS video could be a starting point:

I recently bought a small trampoline/rebounder and that’s pretty cool. No pressure on my joints but works the muscles!

I do use small hand weights (3 - 4kg). It’s not the same as big weights, but if you do lots of repetitions, you get a decent impact.

Of course, when I’m in a massive flare (like right now), I don’t do a lot. I do some gentle stretches and go for a short walk on level ground. And potentially do 5 mins on the trampoline.

Hope you find something that works for you. It’s harder during lockdown! x

I've never been into exercise but have started making more of an effort since diagnosis. After researching, I was really aware of the need to strengthen muscles without putting pressure on the joints. I started with Tai Chi for Arthritis (I found that easier on sore joints than Pilates but I think that would be good too) and swimming and AquaFit; obviously the pools aren't open atm but I'll be back as soon as they are as I really enjoyed the AquaFit. Since lockdown, I've had an abortive attempt with an exercise bike (I find it boring and have no will power!) but after it was mentioned on here, I've started using the Mr Motivator exercise YouTube videos - as I'm older and unfit, I like his approach! 😂At the moment, you need to listen to your joints but you should be able to find things which suit you and keep your basic fitness levels up and then, when your meds kick in, you'll be able to ramp things up 😉

helixhelix in reply to Boxerlady

Mr motivator makes me laugh, so I do manage to do him quite often. I love his dress sense! Not bad for a near 70 year old....

Boxerlady in reply to helixhelix

It was your comment about him that got me started so thank you 😊👍I've always hated the idea of exercise classes (despite enjoying Pilates years ago) but I did really enjoy AquaFit and am relieved to have found something I can do now which is fun - and hopefully, getting me fitter 🙄😂

I was also worried about how to maintain my fitness when I was diagnosed with RD in 2018 at 62. I was a runner and did yoga classes on a regular basis before my diagnosis and the thought of not being able to do them really got me down. However once my meds were sorted I gradually restarted both running and yoga. Had to watch my wrists with the yoga but found some brilliant wrist supports which helped a lot. I’m back to running 3 to 4 times a week but my secret has been to include run /walk/ run to my longer sessions. We are all different and I know that I am lucky in that I had an early diagnosis but just take your time and don’t be afraid to adjust your exercise when necessary. I really wish you well.

A lot of what’s appropriate will depend on which joints are effected, so you’ll have to take that into consideration before doing anything.

In terms of gym exercises: the bike is generally considered to be a great choice for those with arthritis because it doesn’t put stress on the joints as long as your seat height and posture is correct. Even when I’m struggling with my feet and hips, I can usually manage a decent stint (5 miles sub 15 minutes) on the bike without issue, although the obvious exception to this would be major symptoms in the hips, knee, or ankle. Weights are problematic because aside from potentially being painful during active disease, they can more readily cause joint issues and injury in active joints, but resistance bands are a more gentle, safer alternative whilst still working on muscle mass. You also get resistance through both phases of a rep, rather than just one as you would with free weights, which is one of the reasons lots of trainers and athletes are big fans of them, and you can get comparable lean gain. Building muscle generally is much more difficult with active arthritis, and you tend to lose muscle quite rapidly - the only area I haven’t had major losses over the last 15 months are my legs due to persisting with walking as much as I possibly can (fortunate to live within walking distance of my local services and shops), and using a small stepper at home, but I’m still an inch down at the thigh and calf. I’ve found resistance bands are also much easier on the hands if your hand joints are effected, wrists too. Body weight exercises like press ups (modified if required - I rest on my knees, lower legs up and crossed at the ankles, due to arthritis in my feet and toes) are also good, and you can incorporate resistance bands into many body weight exercises, including crunches, planks etc. All of these are doable if you take into account the joints giving you difficulty and modify as appropriate, and also accept that you’re not going to be able to do all the things you normally would, or at the intensity you normally would. If I’m really flaring, with fatigue alone, there’s just no way I’m going to be able to do 5 miles in sub 15, so I don’t even try - all I’m doing otherwise is setting myself up for failure and feeling even more naff mentally, never mind physically. Those days, I take the view that it’s far better to do 20 minutes at whatever steady pace I can manage, even if it’s a crawl. Whatever targets you set yourself for exercise each day have to be realistic for what your arthritis is doing.

Away from traditional gym/workout stuff, I’m a big advocate of tai chi and qi gong - these are both actually really good for physical fitness and easy on the joints, in addition to being great for mental and emotional well-being. Never done Pilates or yoga myself, but others here (and my sister) swear by it. Swimming when we’re not all locked in the house.

GranAmie in reply to Charlie_G

agree unless u are male with prostate probs; exercise bike nearly did for him.. major surgery.. which is why i say cross trainer now. all the best 2u

I have the same problems sometimes.gym is shut,si I can’t even do my usual low level stuff.I do my regular stretches etc daily.

I had some exercises offered by NRAS,perhaps you could email them and ask for the link.i think it’s called exercise with Leon.

It’s good,caters for seated as well as standing.

There’s aprogramme n BBC1 at 9am .ithink it’s called good morning.


At the end they have a 1 minute exercise routine.

It’s different e dry day.

You can pick and choose which bits you do.

Sometimes I sit sometimes I stand.

I use my oxygen,which helps my.ung condition.

If I have pain,I take something before I can’t wait for my 2 nd vaccine and for gym to open.

You can still train and exercise.

You just have to adapt.

Good. Luck

My yoga teacher devised four levels of yoga practice for me, from almost no movement (mainly breathing techniques) when I'm bad to almost a normal practice routine (for when I'm doing well). I do something from these routines every morning. I walk when I can, but that's not always. I also have a cross country skiing exercise machine which my children bought me many years ago. It has a variable resistance so can be set to match my state of ability. I've been using it most days in this cold and miserable weather.I would love to get back to the swimming pool though -that's where I go "Aaaah, bliss!"

I do mainly strength training. but have let my coach know to avoid too much pressure on the knees so she tailors my programming to take it into account. If you can afford it I would go to someone qualified, that way you are getting a programme tailored to you and you alone. I also do Pilates which is definitely helping with mobility and the bonus of core strength. She also tailors the class for anyone with particular issues.

Shyandretiring in reply to LG199

HiThank you to everyone with their very helpful and kind replies.

I will certainly be taking a lot away with me.

Many thanks

Shy & retiring


Shyandretiring in reply to LG199

Hi LG199

When you say someone qualified do you mean a Gym instructor when they re- open.

Kind regards


LG199 in reply to Shyandretiring

Yeah as long as they are certified. Mine is an online coach but she has all the qualifications

Same as the others swimming and aqua aerobics, you really work but it doesnt hurt your joints .can wait to get back in 🏊‍♀️

LoneEra in reply to allanah

Can’t wait either! I did try swimming in the sea recently but getting in and out of a wetsuit was a nightmare with swollen knees and elbows 🙂

allanah in reply to LoneEra

Same here!

You can do yoga or Pilates at home

late to see this as A&E xrays etc n bed bound LOL but getting there [UP]. Please avoid weights 4 now, but swimming when you can will help, also gentle [even chair] yoga. Cross trainers are better than bikes 4 allround workout. Tai chi?? When mobile I dance round conservatory or garden in Spring [aaaaaah]. to Barbara Dickson, Annie Lennox, Abba,soul or whatever i fancy. being locked in and 75+ doesn't stop me, except for stupid stuid 'accidents'. Good luck n take care y'all xx

Thank you GranAmieYou are an inspiration to us all !

Tai Chi and Yoga seem to be favoured by most on the Forum and their is a battle between Cycling / Cross Trainer for the best CV exercise, but knee conditions may play apart in that.

I hope you are in "dancing mode"real soon.

💃Shy x

bless! - but an example of pure stupidity now + then. Thx 4 good wishes, Kids [48 + 49!!] took over n moved bed to GF dining room settled me in v well - a game changer, that. Tests = no fracture and NOT a flare so waiting for MRI but aftr v long 15 days swelling going down + am on crutches and moving about a bit. Never again will i bend the knee as i did [to try n defuse domestic tension .. humour has worked b4, but that's it. Hopefully torn or strained ligament but i have learned another life lesson LOL. xx

Versus Arthritis have a series of 10 exercise videos on their site ( or they did earlier in the year 🤔) which are v gentle but ok. I was a runner n gym goer pre diagnosis and have had to adapt, to the point of no exercise at all at times. You will learn what suits you through trial and error how much you can do and what types of physical activity is best for you. I would agree that weights are a no. I find the impact of running is too high a price for my joints . But I discovered indoor cycling (exercise bike n telly or music) and nice brisk walks rather than the gym. Yoga is now a nono for me but i know others find it great . All the best 😊

Thank you ThingybobThis really is such a random disease isn't it !

We all are effected by it but in a lot of cases have different obstacles to overcome.

Having said that, your reply and everyone else's are so helpful in helping me understand this condition.

Thank you so much.


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