The benefits of resistance training for women with rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. It predominantly affects women, with nearly three times as many females being diagnosed with RA compared to males. While traditional treatments like medication and physical therapy are often prescribed, there is growing evidence to suggest that resistance training can provide numerous benefits for women with rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Improved Joint Function and Strength

Resistance training involves performing exercises that work against external resistance, such as weights, resistance bands, or even bodyweight. Engaging in regular resistance training helps to increase muscle strength and improve joint function for women with RA.

Studies have shown that resistance training can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with RA by strengthening the muscles around the affected joints. This added strength provides better support and stability, reducing the stress on the joints and enabling improved range of motion.

2. Increased Bone Density

Women with RA are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones. Resistance training is highly effective at improving and maintaining bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and increasing overall bone strength.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as strength training, stimulate bone growth and help retain essential minerals like calcium. By incorporating resistance training into their routine, women with RA can significantly enhance their bone health and minimize the complications associated with osteoporosis.

3. Enhanced Daily Functionality

One of the key goals of any treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is to improve daily functionality and quality of life. Resistance training can play a crucial role in achieving this objective for women with RA.

Engaging in regular resistance training exercises not only boosts muscle strength and joint stability but also improves overall physical fitness, making daily tasks and activities easier to perform. Women with rheumatoid arthritis who incorporate resistance training into their routine often report reduced fatigue, increased energy levels, and enhanced overall functionality.

4. Mood and Mental Well-being

Living with rheumatoid arthritis can often take a toll on mental well-being, with chronic pain and physical limitations affecting mood and overall quality of life. Resistance training has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, helping individuals combat anxiety, depression, and stress.

Engaging in regular exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can significantly improve mood and reduce feelings of sadness or anxiety. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment and improvement in physical strength gained through resistance training can boost self-confidence and overall well-being.

5. Disease Management and Symptom Relief

While resistance training does not cure rheumatoid arthritis, it can be a valuable tool for effectively managing the disease and relieving symptoms. Exercise, including resistance training, helps reduce joint swelling, stiffness, and pain, improving overall physical function.

Research has shown that resistance training can also help regulate inflammation levels in the body, potentially minimizing the frequency and severity of RA flare-ups. It can also improve immune function, aiding in the management of this autoimmune disease.


Resistance training offers a multitude of benefits for women with rheumatoid arthritis. Incorporating regular resistance training exercises into a treatment plan can help improve joint function, increase bone density, enhance daily functionality, boost mood and mental well-being, and aid in disease management.

However, it is crucial for women with RA to work closely with their healthcare provider or a qualified fitness professional to design a personalized resistance training program that is safe and tailored to their specific needs. By harnessing the power of resistance training, women with rheumatoid arthritis can experience an improved quality of life and better control over their condition.