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Arthritis Patients Benefit from Weight Training

August 28, 2010 | 37,755 views
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arthritisA regular weight-training regimen may help treat rheumatoid arthritis. A study of 28 patients found that weight training led to improvements in basic physical function, such as walking.

Researchers said such high intensity exercising could play a key role in managing the condition.

BBC News reports:

"RA is mainly a disease affecting the joints, but a less well known symptom is that it also severely reduces muscle mass and strength and this occurs even among patients whose disease is well managed …

They found physical function improved by between 20 percent to 30 percent in the group doing weight training. Strength also increased by nearly 120 percent."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that activates your immune system to attack your joints, causing them to break down. It tends to affect your middle joints, especially your hands and fingers, which causes the joint pain, stiffness and deformities that are a hallmark of this disease.

However, RA does not only impact your joints, it also leads to diminished strength and muscle mass that can be nearly as debilitating as the damage to your joints.

For this reason, and for a myriad of other benefits, weight training is an incredibly useful tool for helping to manage this condition.

Is it Safe to Exercise with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Although you might be surprised, the evidence seems to suggest it is. In the latest study, people with RA who did weight training for 24 weeks improved their function by up to 30 percent and their strength by 120 percent.

This is a major improvement, made all the more important because most people with rheumatoid arthritis generally experience a progressively worsening disability.

Less than 1 percent of RA patients have a spontaneous remission, and some disability occurs in 50 percent to 70 percent of people within five years after onset of the disease.

Aside from causing pain and deformity, RA can lead to difficulty with carrying objects, climbing stairs, walking, and generally being able to lead an independent life. Exercise can help to restore your strength and ability to function, so its importance should not be minimized.

Getting the Most Out of Exercise if You Have RA

Inflamed joints are very vulnerable to damage from improper exercise, so you must be cautious. People with arthritis must strike a delicate balance between rest and activity, and must avoid activities that aggravate joint pain. You should avoid any exercise that strains a significantly unstable joint.

That said, it is very important to exercise and increase muscle tone of your non-weight bearing joints. In time, disuse results in muscle atrophy and weakness, and immobility may result in joint contractures and loss of range of motion (ROM) so it's important to keep moving.

If your joints are stiff, you should stretch and apply heat before exercising, while swollen joints may benefit from applying ice for 10 minutes prior to exercise.

Your program should include a range of activities, just as I recommend for any exerciser. Weight training, cardio, stretching and core work can all be integrated into your routine, and, if your condition allows, it would be wise to move toward a Peak Fitness program that is designed for reaching optimal health.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you're in pain for longer than one hour after your exercise session, you should slow down or choose another form of exercise. Assistive devices are also helpful to decrease the pressure on affected joints during your workout.

Strength Training Also VERY Good for Elderly

My mother is 75 years old and only weighs 120 pounds. She broke her arm in two places last year and fractured her pelvis a few years before that. She has never done weight training before but Darin, the Mercola.com fitness expert, now trains her every week.

The strength training exercises have done her a tremendous amount of good and her balance and posture have dramatically improved. I only wish that I had started it earlier for her.

What Else Can Help Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis?

I have personally treated over 3,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis over my career as a physician, which is probably more than 10 times the amount a typical family physician would treat in their entire lifetime, so I have a fair amount of experience with this condition.

I recently updated my rheumatoid arthritis protocol, and I strongly encourage you to read it in detail, as it outlines the steps you can take to manage and improve this condition.

In my experience, nearly 80 percent of people do remarkably better with this program. However, approximately 5 percent continue to worsen and require conventional agents, like methotrexate, to relieve their symptoms.

So what does it entail?

  • Improving your diet, including eating for your nutritional type. The more closely you follow the nutrition plan, the more likely you are to improve and the less likely you are to have a severe flare-up. Eliminating sugar, especially fructose, and most grains is an essential part of the nutritional component of the program.
  • Incorporating regular exercise into your daily schedule, as discussed above, especially the Peak Fitness Program.
  • Addressing your emotional traumas. One important underlying cause of RA is some kind of severe, traumatic emotional insult, which often occurs in childhood. If that specific emotional insult is not addressed with an effective treatment modality, then the underlying emotional trigger will not be removed, allowing the destructive process to proceed. In my practice, the most common form of treatment used to resolve emotional trauma is called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
  • Optimizing your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with the development of RA. From my perspective, it is now virtually criminal negligent malpractice to treat a person with RA and not aggressively monitor their vitamin D levels to confirm that they are in a therapeutic range of 65-80 ng/ml.

Further, I would encourage anyone with RA to consider low-dose Naltrexone if they need some improvement in their pain management. It is inexpensive and non-toxic and I have a number of physician reports documenting incredible efficacy in getting people off of all their dangerous arthritis meds.

Although this is a drug, and strictly speaking not a natural therapy, it has provided important relief and is FAR safer than the toxic drugs that are typically used by nearly all rheumatologists.

Again, for my full recommendations on what you can do to treat rheumatoid arthritis, naturally, please review my rheumatoid arthritis protocol.