In the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there is some leeway in the activities that a patient can safely perform. In advanced RA, however, excessive exercise can aggravate the inflammation in an already deformed joint. Nevertheless, especially if your arthritis is well controlled, "its still very important to keep exercising," says Susan Joy, MD, director of Womens Sports Health, Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. The benefits are clear, she stresses. Regular workouts help to control body weight, thus reducing the load on your joints. Specifically, aerobic activity improves heart health; stretching enhances joint function and overall flexibility; and resistance exercise strengthens bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.