Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease affecting around 400,000 people in the UK, and over 18 million people globally. It is associated with tendon inflammation which leads to cartilage destruction and bone erosion, and can often lead to disability. Some of the common symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling and fatigue, all of which can negatively impact the quality of life of those living with RA. However, there are ways to reduce the severity of the condition and the pain associated with it. Physical activity plays a crucial part in the self-management of RA and is known to have a positive influence on bone and joint health, reduce inflammation and increase self-esteem, all of which can contribute to a better quality of life.

Physical Activity & Rheumatoid Arthritis  

For people living with RA, it can often be easy to think that physical activity could worsen symptoms or cause a flare up. However, evidence suggests that physical activity, when carried out at an appropriate intensity, has the power to both prevent RA and reduce the severity of the condition. Optimising physical activity can lead to decreased bone loss at the femur, reduce feelings of fatigue and pain, enhance self-esteem and improve overall mental wellbeing.

In addition, physical activity doesn’t need to take the form of vigorous intensity exercise, which is another common misconception that is often seen as a barrier to engaging in a more active lifestyle. Physical activity is defined as “any bodily movement which causes a rise in energy expenditure” thus, even normal everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning or washing the car contribute towards our daily physical activity levels. This fits well with physical activity guidelines for RA, which state that vigorous intensity exercise is not recommended in case of flare-ups (exacerbation of symptoms). In contrast, low-impact physical activities such as walking, swimming and general household tasks put less stress on the body and can reduce arthritis pain, improve functionality and quality of life. Therefore, this makes everyday movement even more appropriate for people with RA as it can include everyday movements that are already part of an individual’s normal daily life.

Taking all of this into account, our approach to optimising everyday movement in the context of an individual’s health, capacity and environment can be of major benefit when deciding both when and what type of movement to engage in. This allows for the individual to better understand what movements they enjoy and feel comfortable with and transform their physical activity habits to better self-manage their condition.

The Benefits of Physical Activity for Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are a variety of benefits to being active for people with RA including:

  • Reduced pain
  • Decreased bone & muscle loss (atrophy)
  • Slower radiographic deterioration in small joints
  • Improved endothelial function
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Improved sleep quality

Evidence suggests that accelerated atherosclerosis, thickening or hardening of the arteries, is a common impact of RA, which further emphasises the importance of good cardiovascular health for people living with RA. Physical activity is robustly associated with a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well as improved endothelial function, which is responsible for normal blood flow and better regulation of inflammation.

In addition to the benefits related to physical health, physical activity can also benefit your mental wellbeing by reducing risk of and/or managing symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as enhancing self-esteem, further highlighting the importance of everyday movement as a medicine for improving overall quality of life and wellbeing, in addition to the common physical symptoms of RA.

How KiActiv® Helps

With tailored one-to-one support from a personal KiActiv® Mentor, the personalised nature of KiActiv® Health enables people to rethink their exercise and make everyday movement an effective medicine to improve their condition self-management, as well as their general health and wellbeing. Our unique approach to everyday movement empowers sustainable behaviour change for physical activity and self-care, in the context of your health, preferences and environment.

In the context of RA, KiActiv® will support you to find your own optimum dose of physical activity in a way that works for you. It is our priority to help you understand the role of physical activity in managing RA and associated symptoms without the need for visits to gyms or clinics.

We support you to develop the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to maintain your new, optimised level of physical activity far beyond the initial 12-week programme and continue to experience the health benefits that are associated with long-term self-care.

Client Testimonial

“I have found KiActiv® Health a useful programme in helping me to manage my health.  I liked the fact that with the support provided, from my mentor in the one-to-one remote sessions, the programme was easy to understand, from using the KiActiv® wrist band to using the interactive online KiActiv® Health tools and resources.

The programme has given me the tools, through the graphs and support from my mentor, to track and relate my activity levels to the highs/lows of my various health issues. I suffer from Long Covid, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, and during the programme I also suffered with a number of viruses & a respiratory infection. Having a mentor to listen to me without judgement had a positive impact on my mental and physical wellbeing. She helped me come to terms with my ability and gave me the encouragement to move forward with my exercise goals.

I have learnt through KiActiv® Health how to pace and adapt my physical activity and exercise levels day-to-day, to help avoid the ‘boom and bust cycle’ of Long Covid.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in the KiActiv® Health programme and providing useful tools I can continue to use to improve my overall health.

I have already recommended the programme to a friend and would recommend it to other family and friends in the future.”

Female, 55-years, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Long Covid