This systematic review investigates the effectiveness of exercise interventions in improving disease-related characteristics in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It also provides suggestions for exercise programmes suitable for improving the cardiovascular profile of RA patients and proposes areas for future research in the field. Six databases (Medline, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, Google Scholar, EMBASE and PEDro) were searched to identify publications from 1974 to December 2006 regarding RA and exercise interventions. The quality of the studies included was determined by using the Jadad scale. Initial searches identified 1342 articles from which 40 met the inclusion criteria. No studies were found investigating exercise interventions in relation to cardiovascular disease in RA. There is strong evidence suggesting that exercise from low to high intensity of various modes is effective in improving disease-related characteristics and functional ability in RA patients. Future studies are required to investigate the effects of exercise in improving the cardiovascular status of this patient population.