Can I do weights if I have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Can I do weights if I have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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The benefits of resistance training are well documented. Here at BJC Health, we know how a tailored and gradually progressed strength program can be beneficial to someone’s health, confidence and function. See here if you want to check out some of our group classes in action!

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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition which can effect numerous joints. Pain, swelling and stiffness are common complaints, with both big and small joints being affected. The risk of cardiovascular disease is also increased in this group, and fatigue can also have a significant impact on this group. Left untreated, RA can cause joint erosion and deformity. Thankfully, the medications available to treat this condition are much better than 20 years ago. There is also a strong push to help people get diagnosed EARLY, in order to prevent long term joint damage and health complications. If you are concerned about some of your joint symptoms, then click here to take our RA quiz.

When it comes to exercise, there are a number of considerations that may impact on the type of program that is designed for someone with RA. But generally speaking, it is thought that resistance training in those with RA is a GOOD thing. Resistance training can improve tissue tolerance, functional capacity and numerous other health outcomes. So in answer to our question posed in today’s blog, the answer is YES!

Now, despite this good news, there remain some key tips to remember when approaching weight training if you or someone you know has RA.

Hot, swollen, inflamed joints won’t like weights

If you are in a flare, or are not yet in great control of your disease, then attempting to do exercises with weights may not feel particularly good. When joints are inflamed, the best idea is to modify your program that doesn’t exacerbate any of your joint discomfort. Starting a weights program when you are in a flare is also not recommended. Click here for more recommendations regarding how to exercise when you are in a flare.

Different programs for different days

We appreciate RA symptoms can fluctuate. It is not unusual for my RA clients to have different programs that they can choose from depending on how they are feeling. Whilst moving and exercising consistently is important, it makes sense to have some options that are less intensive for days when you may feel more fatigued. Using different types of weights can also be a good option. In clinic, we have a good array of bands, sandbags, ankle weights, all which can be used without gripping if need be.

Mechanics still matter

My clients with RA know that I am still a stickler when it comes to doing things correctly. Even if they feel 100%, it is important to learn how to move and control their joints when performing their exercise routine. Improving an individual’s mechanics is not specific to RA alone, but it is an essential component to ensuring happy and healthy joints long term. Performing resistance training safely can also help them build up to being able to walk further, run more efficiently, or just better enjoy play time with the kids.

Avoiding the Boom Bust cycle

Perhaps some new medication has helped you feel great so you want to push yourself more? Or start enjoying your training so much that you start adding more and more to it, only to suffer later? Try to fit in the gym even though work is hectic, the kids are sick and you haven't been sleeping well? Don't worry we have all done this at times. But something we try and embed in our clients is how to try and avoid these Boom Bust cycles. Spacing out resistance training sessions throughout the week is just one way we can help avoid this.  But discussing what is going on at different stages in your life can help your allied health team modify your program accordingly. Sometimes, just taking a day or two off is the best decision you can make to avoid asking too much of your body.

I hope this weeks blog has provided you with some valuable insight as to how we approach weight training with our RA clients. As always, drop your questions below. We are keen to hear whether you have found resistance training to be helpful in managing your RA. 

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