The benefits of weights for joint pain & arthritis – Flexiseq

The benefits of weights for joint pain & arthritis


It may sound counterintuitive, but weight and strength training really can help reduce the pain of arthritis. In fact, a review of eight studies on adults with osteoarthritis found that following a strength training programme reduced the pain participants felt by 35%.

We’re not suggesting you try to lift 100KG weights - if you are experiencing bad arthritis pain you may want to take it easy for the day - but adding strength training to your exercise regime can be really beneficial.

To find out why, we spoke to David Vaux, Therapies Manager of Arthritis Action.

How weight and strength training are good arthritis

We naturally lose muscle mass as we age, which can slow down our metabolism and contribute to weight gain. Having a high BMI (overweight or obese) can put extra pressure on the joints, which can make the pain of arthritis worse. Luckily, you can lessen the natural effects of ageing by working your muscles in weight and strength training.

“People with arthritis should continue exercising as much as possible. Regular exercise is essential as it helps to strengthen the muscles that protect and support the joints. Keeping active has even been proven to help reduce the pain of arthritis and improve function,” says David.

“It is normal to sometimes feel a little sore or uncomfortable after exercise, especially if it is something you haven’t done for a while, but it is important to remember that this does not mean that you are harming your joints.”

Exercise is key to managing arthritis

You might think that strength training would put too much pressure on your joints and could make arthritis worse. We do recommend speaking to your doctor before undertaking a new exercise regime, but strength training can be undertaken by people who have arthritis.

“Osteoarthritis is not caused by too much exercise, and hard work does not damage the joints. People who have had sporting injuries are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in that joint, but even extreme sportsmen and women are not usually more prone to osteoarthritis. In a nutshell, anything that gets you more active and moving more is a good thing,” says David.

“There are many ways to gain strength, of which weight equipment is only one. For instance I often would prescribe own-body exercises to provide the resistance needed for strength gains in a patient with arthritis, and then progress to the use of therapy bands, again providing differing resistance. Weights are fine also, but often only at an intermediate level, after other strength training.”

Things to look out for with weight and strength training

It’s really important to incorporate a warm up and a cool down into your exercise regime to help elongate the muscles. You can do this by doing a few yoga sequences or taking the time to stretch before and after your workout.

“If you have had a long period of inactivity due to injury, illness or arthritis, it is generally a good idea to get some advice about strengthening or mobility exercises perhaps prior to setting yourself a long term weight training goal. Setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself is vital,” says David.

“Also be aware that it is normal for the muscle you target with resistance training to ache, often for days after your exercise session. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and is completely normal. Remember to start slowly and pace yourself. If you are sore following a resistance training session, always leave a few days to recover. Try targeting different muscle groups during the week, so whilst you exercise one area you rest another,” he continues.

It’s really important to incorporate a warm up and a cool down into your exercise regime to help elongate the muscles. You can do this by doing a few yoga sequences or taking the time to stretch before and after your workout.

“If you have had a long period of inactivity due to injury, illness or arthritis, it is generally a good idea to get some advice about strengthening or mobility exercises perhaps prior to setting yourself a long term weight training goal. Setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself is vital,” says David.

“Also be aware that it is normal for the muscle you target with resistance training to ache, often for days after your exercise session. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and is completely normal. Remember to start slowly and pace yourself. If you are sore following a resistance training session, always leave a few days to recover. Try targeting different muscle groups during the week, so whilst you exercise one area you rest another,” he continues.

Pain doesn’t mean gain

While it is normal for your muscles to ache after a workout session, especially if you’ve used muscles that haven’t seen much action for a while, your workout itself should not be painful. It should be challenging, but you should not be experiencing any sharp pains or anything that feels wrong. If this happens, stop your work out and consult a doctor if the pain persists.

This might happen if the weight is too high or if your form and movements are incorrect. It’s really helpful to watch some exercise videos of the movements you will be doing to see what the correct form is and, if possible, workout in front of a mirror so you can see what your body is doing.

Find the right equipment for you

Home gyms are all well and good, but most of us can’t afford them or fit them into our homes. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to do strength training - and a lot of equipment options.

“Anything that creates tension and load across our muscles has the potential to stimulate strength gains in that muscle. Weights and gym equipment are one way to achieve this, but they’re not the only way,” says David.

Dumbbells (2-3 pounds for women and 5-8 pounds for men if you’re just starting out) are a great and fairly affordable piece of equipment which you can use at home, but you can also get fit using your own body weight.

“Great results can be gained by using our own body or simple exercise bands to improve our strength. Simple exercises with variations in the speed at which you do them can be incredibly beneficial to strength. Such activity is a great starting point if you are unfamiliar with weights, or if you’ve had a long period of inactivity. I would always recommend this approach initially to regain one's basic strength, before progression to using free weights,” says David.


There are a lot of benefits to weight and strength training if you have arthritis, just as long as you warm up, cool down, listen to your body and take things slow. What are some of your favourite strength training exercises? Let us know!

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