The effect of progressive resistance training in rheumatoid arthritis. Increased strength without changes in energy balance or body composition

Arthritis Rheum. 1996 Mar;39(3):415-26. doi: 10.1002/art.1780390309.


Objective: To demonstrate the feasibility of high-intensity progressive resistance training in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients compared with healthy control subjects.

Methods: Eight subjects with RA, 8 healthy young subjects, and 8 healthy elderly subjects underwent 12 weeks of high-intensity progressive resistance training, while 6 elderly subjects performed warm-up exercises only. Fitness, body composition, energy expenditure, function, disease activity, pain, and fatigue were measured at baseline and followup.

Results: All 3 training groups demonstrated similar improvements in strength compared with the change among control subjects (RA group 57% [P < 0.0005], young exercise group 44% [P < 0.01], elderly exercise group 36% [P < 0.05]). Subjects with RA had no change in the number of painful or swollen joints but had significant reductions in self-reported pain score (21% [P < 0.05]) and fatigue score (38% [P = 0.06]), improved 50-foot walking times (mean +/- SD 10.4 +/- 2.2 seconds versus 8.3 +/- 1.5 seconds [P < 0.005]), and improved balance and gait scores (48.9 +/- 3.8 versus 50.4+/- 2.0 [P = 0.07]).

Conclusion: High-intensity strength training is feasible and safe in selected patients with well-controlled RA and leads to significant improvements in strength, pain, and fatigue without exacerbating disease activity or joint pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Body Weight
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isotonic Contraction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness
  • Treatment Outcome