Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Henry C. Wessman


Exercise Therapy; Arthritis, Rheumatoid -- therapy


Before 1980, the effects of exercise on people with rheumatoid arthritis was considered negative, even though no research substantiated this belief. Medical professionals prescribed rest and passive exercise as the activity level for people with rheumatoid arthritis. So, the patients rested and developed many of the problems associated with inactivity. This resulted in more disability and less people with rheumatoid arthritis in the work force.

This paper is a literature search which examines current research on exercise in rheumatoid arthritis. It attempts to answer many of the questions asked about exercising with rheumatoid arthritis. Discussed are the topics of deconditioning, the effects of inactivity, effects of exercise, how to exercise, and whether exercise causes joint damage.

It was concluded that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are severely deconditioned. They can exercise both safely and effectively. Exercise, when completed under controlled conditions, affects an increase in flexibility, strength, cardiovascular endurance, work capacity, mental status and the patients ability to cope with their disease. No joint damage was found as a result of exercise, and evidence exists that exercise can reduce the severity of the disease.