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“Arthritis Myths: To Lift or Not To Lift”

There seems to be a great deal of misinformation circulating about the most effective

exercises to fight the symptoms and progression of various forms of arthritis.

Oftentimes, people suffering from arthritis have been told they should NOT be lifting

weights because it will cause further damage to joints and bring on severe flare-ups.


They may also believe that incorporating weights can be dangerous if they suffer with

weak muscles, balance issues and poor flexibility. In fact, weight lifting when you have

joint pain may sound like a terrible idea, but it is actually a very important way to

manage, relieve and reduce arthritis pain.


It’s time to debunk the myths.


Fact 1. According to the Center for Disease Control:

● 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. has arthritis

● 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. with arthritis reports severs joint pain

● 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. limits activities because of arthritis

● $303.5 billion dollars in the U.S. are spent each year in medical spending

and lost wages


Fact 2. According to the Mayo Clinic, those with arthritis NEED to exercise in order to:

● Strengthen the muscles around joints

● Help maintain bone strength

● Improve energy to get through the day

● Improve quality of sleep

● Help control weight

● Increase balance

● Enhance quality of life and independence


Fact 3. Lifting Weights will:

● Ease joint pain and stiffness

● Boost bone strength through load

● Improve metabolism

● Improve core strength

● Increase flexibility

● Mimic everyday activities


While the idea of “lifting weights” may conjure up images of people with overly

developed physiques that may be grunting and struggling to lift up what appears to be a

three ton barbell, this is far from the truth. Lifting weights is a functional exercise that

promotes longevity and independence for those suffering with arthritis. From using grip

strength to open a soup can, unlocking a car door, lifting a pot off the stove, to engaging

in sit to stand positions throughout the day, incorporating weights in a safe and effective

manner will improve joint stability. As a bonus, incorporating light weights will also

reduce the risk of falls by strengthening stabilizer muscles.


Weight Lifting For Arthritis Best Practices:


● Try resistance bands: Remove the need to hold weights and take the

pressure off of fingers, hands, wrists.

● Utilize weight machines: These provide extra stability and control

resistance to protect against injury and may be a great start before

introducing light weights.

● Start Light: Use light weights, slow and controlled movements, and low

repetitions. Lighter weights will help with greater range of motion and

flexibility.


In addition, even before exercise begins, the use of heat to relax joints and muscles is a

great way to relieve pains from stiff joints. Slowly and gradually adding movements

aimed to assess and improve range of motion should also be implemented before

including any weight. Don’t be afraid to start with small cans or water bottles as to not

overdue wrist or elbow joints when performing bicep curls and use slow and basic

movements. Joints may be uncomfortable, but should not be painful. Another great

practice is to ice joints post-exercise to reduce the chance of swelling or discomfort.


When it comes to safe and effective exercises to improve the quality of life and

decrease arthritis symptoms, weight lifting is a great option. With that said, it is also

important to gain formal clearance from a doctor before seeking a medical fitness or

highly qualified fitness professional. As a fitness professional, it is also paramount that

you properly educate yourself by enrolling in an arthritis or chronic disease specialist

course and learn how to best serve the arthritic population.


Resources:

“Arthritis.” Center for Disease Control. 18 February 2022.

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm


Nayak, Anika.“Weight Lifting and Arthritis: Tips to Strength Train Safely.” 15 October

2020 Weight Lifting and Arthritis: Tips to Strength Train Safely | Livestrong.com

“Exercising with arthritis: Improve your joint pain and stiffness.” Mayo Clinic. 1

December 2020. Exercising with arthritis: Improve your joint pain and stiffness - Mayo

Clinic

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