Morning exercise routine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Morning exercise routine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

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If you or someone you know has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), then you have probably experienced morning stiffness.

Getting out of bed can be a challenge, and can need to be done slowly.


Shoulders and hands can feel stiff, sore and slow to move.

Feet, ankles and knees can feel like they need some TLC before they “come good” as the day goes on.

I appreciate how frustrating this can be. And also understand that the morning is often a time in the day we want to get stuff done! Whether it’s getting yourself ready for work, making the school lunches or getting some time for yourself, we know mornings are an important part of the day!

Young woman sitting on the bed with pain in neck

Getting moving in the morning can help to remove joint stiffness, increase the blood flow around the body, and help to get more movement into and around the joints. For that reason, we have come up with a morning routine that is quick, easy to do and we hope that it will help to make it just that bit easier to get started with the day ahead!

Introduce some gentle movement in bed

Even before you slip out from under the covers, start to gently move into the joints in the body. Start from the toes- gently scrunch up the toes and then lift them up a few times; maybe give them a bit of a wiggle just to get things going. Next try pointing the toes up and down gently, and circle the ankle around a few time in each direction. Gently bend and straighten the knees, being nice and gentle and slow. Next, bring your knees up towards your chest and gently round through the back- this will help to get the back and hips moving a bit.

Moving onto the upper body next, start to bend and straighten the fingers, and maybe give them a bit of a wiggle. Then gently bend and straighten the wrists, and circle the wrists around a few times in each direction. Bend and straighten the elbow gently, and when straight, roll the palms to face up and then down to get a bit of rotation into the shoulder and forearm.

Now is the time you sit yourself up, and have a few rolls of the shoulders in each direction- up and back, down and around, and then down and back, up and around. Gently twist into the spine, making your way from your lower back into your upper back. Once you have reached the shoulders, start to gently nod and shake your head (like you are saying “yes” and “no”), and gently bring each ear towards the shoulder on the sameside.

This simple bottom to top approach helps to get almost all joints in the body moving in a slow and gentle fashion.


Perhaps when you did the above, you found some parts that were particularly sore and stiff. This is where you can target them specifically by self massaging, or perhaps using a spikey ball or foam roller to get into those hard to get spots. Massage has been shown to have temporary pain relief, reduce muscle tension, and improve flexibility. (Arthritis Australia- massage)

Prime the body


Throughout the day, we perform many different movements with many different joints and muscles. By getting the body “warmed up” specifically for those tasks you have to do throughout the day, we can wake up the muscles and get rid of some stiffness around the joints. Most people in a day do the following: sit down, push something, step up or down onto something, and reach side to side. A nice little way to wake the muscles up, is to go through the following sequence a few times within your limits.

  1. Sit down in a chair facing a wall.
  2. Lean forward and reach your hands down towards the ground
  3. Slowly roll back up, and once you are upright, stand up. Reach your hands up to the sky
  4. Bring your hands on the wall to about shoulder height and width. Bend your elbows and bring your chest towards the wall into a pushup position. Straighten your elbows to come back to standing
  5. Bring one foot up off the ground as if you’re going to step onto a high step in front of you. Bring it back down next to the other foot. Repeat on the other side, and do 1 more time each side.
  6. Having your feet slightly apart, reach over to the right (imagine something is just out of your reach). Come back to the centre, and then reach over to the left.
  7. Come back to the centre, and then sit back down. Repeat as many times as you feel you need.


These are just a few simple ways that you can get your body feeling a bit better at the start of the day, when RA can make it a bit hard to bounce out of bed and into the day. Next time you wake up stiff and sore, try the tips from above, and hopefully you’ll be able to start the day feeling that little bit better! As always, we suggest working closely with your Rheumatologist to ensure the best possible approach to your care. We will also put some of these movements up in a video, so stay tuned for that if you are keen to follow along!

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