Changes in hand grip strength and body weight after a dynamic exercise program and Mediterranean diet in women with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized clinical trial

Physiother Theory Pract. 2022 Apr;38(4):504-512. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2020.1777605. Epub 2020 Jun 11.


Background: In patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) exercise improves muscle strength and decreases fat mass, whereas the consumption of a Mediterranean diet (MD) also has been associated with higher grip strength. Therefore, it is important to explore the combined effects of these interventions on hand grip strength and weight in RA.

Objective: To determine the combined effect of an MD and a dynamic exercise program (DEP) on hand grip strength in women with RA.

Method: In a randomized clinical trial, 106 women with RA were included and assigned to the DEP-MD, DEP and MD groups. Weight, body circumferences, Disease Activity Score-28, Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index [HAQ-DI], and hand grip strength were measured at baseline and 24 weeks after the interventions.

Results: After 24 weeks, hand grip strength showed a significant increase in the DEP group (median 2 kg) compared with DEP-MD (median 0.5 kg) and MD (median -0.5 kg) groups (p = 0.03). In the MD group weight and waist circumference showed a significant decrease (-2.2 kg and -4.3 cm) compared with DEP-MD (0.85 kg and 1.9 cm) and DEP (0.35 kg and 0.5 cm) groups (p < 0.01). Finally, a significant decrease was observed in the HAQ-DI after treatment in the DEP-MD group of -0.5 and the DEP group of -0.25 compared with the MD group with no change (p = 0.03).

Conclusion: In women with RA, in addition to pharmacological treatment, DEP increases hand grip strength and an MD decreases weight and waist circumferences, while the combination of DEP and MD improves disability.

Keywords: Mediterranean diet; Rheumatoid arthritis; body weight; exercise; hand grip strength.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / therapy
  • Body Weight
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans