It can be particularly difficult for rheumatoid arthritis patients to exercise, but fighting through initial fatigue could lead to less exhaustion post-workout, according to a meta-analysis published recently in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.

The research focused on what’s called “land‐based aerobic exercise” (as opposed to water-based activities). Based on five studies of up to 300 patients each, researchers from West Virginia University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that patients reported less fatigue after they exercised. But, the authors wrote, “it may be unlikely that a large number of participants with rheumatoid arthritis could derive clinically relevant reductions in fatigue.”

“Although rheumatoid arthritis can limit physical activity for several reasons besides fatigue, including pain and stiffness, patients specifically concerned about unnecessary fatigue may be reassured to learn that land-based exercises like walking, jogging, and cycling do not appear to increase fatigue and could in some cases decrease it,” reports

“Start with 15-minute walks and slowly build up, or try tai chi. Even lighter exercise will help,” Julius Birnbaum, MD, a Johns Hopkins University rheumatologist, told U.S. News & World Report.

“Exercise is considered the most effective pill-free treatment to cope with the pain and stiffness of arthritis,” adds a Harvard Medical School news brief.

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