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Gary S. Firestein, MD

Gary S. Firestein, MD is Founding Director of the Clinical and Translational Research Institute and the Senior Associate Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences at UC San Diego. Dr. Firestein joined the faculty at UCSD School of Medicine as Assistant Professor of Medicine in 1988. Four years later, he was recruited by Gensia, Inc. to be Director of Immunology where he supervised drug discovery efforts focusing on the potential role of purines in inflammation. In 1996, he returned to UCSD where he served as chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology from 1998 until 2010.

Dr. Firestein's research interest focuses on the pathogenesis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. He was among the first to map the cytokine profile of RA and demonstrate the dominance of macrophage and fibroblast products. These studies played a pivotal role in the development of highly effective anti-TNF and other anti-cytokine therapies for RA. More recently, he helped define the role of signal transduction and epigenetics in RA. In 1998, Dr. Firestein received the Carol-Nachman Prize, which is an international award given for outstanding contributions to rheumatology research. In 2006 and 2009, he received the Arthritis Foundation Lee C. Howley Sr Prize for Arthritis Research and the American College of Rheumatology Distinguished Investigator Award, respectively. Dr. Firestein received the Arthritis Foundation's Jane Wyman Humanitarian Award in 2010 for contributions to rheumatology. He has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. In 2019, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Glasgow.

Dr. Firestein has written over 370 articles and chapters and has edited or written several books. He served as the Deputy Editor of Arthritis & Rheumatism and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Firestein and Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. He was chairperson of the FDA Arthritis Advisory Committee and has served on the ACR Committee on Research, the ACR Committee on Journal Publications, the ACR Committee on Nominations, the Arthritis Foundation Research Committee, NIAMS Advisory Council and the Board of Directors of the Veteran's Medical Research Foundation, ACR Rheumatology Research Foundation, and the American College of Rheumatology.

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Exercise and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Ask the Expert

This article has been archived. We will no longer be updating it. For our most up-to-date information, please visit our arthritis information here.


I know that exercise is important in managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but it's so hard to find the time. Any advice on how to fit this into a busy schedule?


The fact that there are never enough hours in a day is a pressing problem for most people—rheumatoid arthritis or not.

It is important for your overall health to find a balance between both rest and exercise. Understanding the roles rest and exercise play in managing RA will help empower you to work to control the disease. Here is what you need to know: when RA is active, you will want more rest. When you're feeling up to it, exercise can play a critical role in keeping healthy muscles, joint mobility and flexibility. A good rule of thumb is that exercise that causes pain the next day means that you are overdoing it. Take care of your joints, but remember that overuse can also be a problem. Use your own discretion.

So how can you find the time?

Prioritizing your health is the best way to find extra time in your day. Start by blocking out time on your calendar like you would for a visit with your rheumatologist (you wouldn't cancel an appointment with your rheumatologist, would you?).

Finding the time to exercise will help improve your overall quality of life and is an important part of any RA management program. It may seem counterintuitive to patients experiencing chronic joint pain, but the reality is that being physically inactive can potentially worsen joint problems, whereas physical activity can sometimes lessen fatigue, muscle weakness and disability from RA.

You can build exercise into almost any of your daily tasks, such as taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Think of each day as an opportunity to try something different to help avoid strain or overuse. Do you grocery shop on Sundays? Try walking the perimeter of the store with your cart for 20 minutes. On Tuesday, take your dog for an extra few laps around the block. If you're watching TV on Thursday, do some stretching during commercial breaks.

If you start noticing improvement in your joint pain and symptoms, identify some other creative ways you can incorporate movement into your regular weekly schedule. Before you know it, exercise will become a part of your lifestyle and not a chore.

My RA Fit Kit, a program developed by biopharmaceutical company UCB in partnership with the Cooper Institute, provides customized exercise options based on the individual needs of those living with RA. It helps users find and design their own fitness regimen based on how their RA affects them and the physical activities they enjoy.

View our Excercises for RA videos.

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