Exercise and Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Range of Motion offers Exercise Physiologist designed one-on-one exercise sessions for individuals with this condition. Book a complimentary consultation or contact us to find out more.

The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

Based on guidelines provided by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Condition Overview:

There are two major forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease caused by damage to articular cartilage. It is isolated to the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition, more commonly seen in smaller joints, which is often systemic (affects multiple joints and organs).

Short Term Response to Exercise:

Due to the systemic nature of rheumatoid arthritis and its tendency to affect other systems, the cardiorespiratory system may be affected, thus impairing exercise. In addition to this, localised joint pain can be experienced with both forms of arthritis.

Considerations that should be taken during exercise training include:

  • Sufferers are often deconditioned.
  • Resting energy expenditure can be higher in sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Biomechanical abnormalities can often reduce efficiency of movement and increase energy cost of exercise.
  • Joint range of motion is often impaired.
  • Joint pain may limit exercise selection.

Long Term Response to Exercise:

The major benefit of exercise for this population is the reversal of deconditioning that is commonly seen in arthritis sufferers. Exercise has been shown to contribute to:

  • Improved function.
  • Decreased joint swelling and pain.
  • Increased social and physical activity in daily life.
  • Improvements in mental health.

These benefits arise due to improvements in cardiovascular conditioning, strength, flexibility and general health.

Condition Management:

For both forms of arthritis, slowing the disease progression is a major goal. This involves joint protection for both forms, and initiatives to control inflammation for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis (including anti-inflammatory drugs). Local corticosteroid injections may also be considered.

Minor, M.A., Kay, D.R., (2003). Arthritis. In: Durstine, J. L., Moore, G. E. (2003), ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities 2nd Ed. (pp 210-216) American College of Sports Medicine, Human Kinetics.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.