A Walking Plan Fit for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Use this RA-friendly walking plan to walk your way to trim, fit and energetic while protecting and strengthening your joints.

Joanne Van Zuidam
More Sharing +

Weeks 3 and 4
Your goal: Get stronger, walk longer
Begin to increase the length of each walk in 5-minute increments. Work toward walking at least 30 minutes daily—45-60 minutes is even better. It may not happen by Week 4, but that’s okay. Progress at your own pace. 

Weeks 5 and 6
Your goal: Walk today, walk tomorrow
Increase the frequency of your workouts. Add another day of exercise until you’re walking at least 30 minutes most days of the week. 

Weeks 6 and beyond
Your goal: Beat boredom & stay the course
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably made walking part of your daily routine.

Chances are, nothing will get in the way of your workout now. You’re committed. But watch out for boredom. To avoid it, keep a few tricks up your sleeve. A few to try:

  • Vary your route. You can do this even by just walking the same path in the opposite direction.
  • Pump your arms. This increases your heart rate and further improves cardio function.
  • Shorten your stride. Walk as if you were on a tightrope. This helps speed up your pace, and it works your glutes and hamstrings, too. 
  • Change your terrain. If you have good balance, walk on a dirt path or sandy beach. The uneven surface will help develop stronger abdominals and back muscles. Or, for a cardio challenge, try walking an incline without increasing your speed. 

Cool down
Aim for a 5-minute cool-down period, walking at a slower, more leisurely pace. Follow with these stretches to improve mobility and reduce soreness.

Walker’s stretch
Why it’s great: Releases tension from thighs
How to do it: Hold onto a wall or other stable surface with your right hand for balance. Bend your left knee and bring your left heel behind you, grabbing it with your left hand. Inhale and gently pull your heel toward your buttocks. You should feel a stretch in the front of your left leg. Hold the stretch and breathe for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side. 

Pretzel stretch
Why it’s great: Stretches hips, lower back and buttocks; relieves tension associated with standing, walking or jogging
How to do it: Sit on a step or chair.  Place your left ankle on your right knee. Make sure the right knee is directly over the right heel. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, lean forward from your waist. Hold the stretch and breathe for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.  

April 2013