Arthritis & Strength Training

Arthritis & Strength Training: How it helps

Arthritis & Strength Training: How It Helps

Arthritis & Strength Training guide

Wake up in the morning feeling like… the Tin Man?

Creaky, painful, stiff joints. Movement feels hard. You might even feel achier when it rains or gets cold.

Sound like you? You might have arthritis. You and 58 million other US adults. (CDC)

In this article, we discuss the impact arthritis has on joints and how strength training can improve the quality of life for those who deal with the disease. For the purpose of this article, we focus specifically on arthritis of a few major joints – the knee and hip; however, the information can be applied to most affected joints. Let’s dive in…

Jump to a Topic

  1. What is Arthritis?
  2. Osteoarthritis
  3. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  4. Dangers of Arthritis
  5. Strength Training & Arthritis
  6. Next Steps

What is Arthritis?

Simply put, arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Those who have arthritis commonly experience symptoms such as pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and swelling. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of joints to the extent where movement becomes painful. In the case of the knees, arthritis typically occurs when the padding between the upper and lower leg bones (the femur and tibia) is partially or completely worn out, allowing for direct bone-to-bone contact.

The wear and tear can ultimately lead to chronic pain, uneven walking, compromised mobility, and disability.

Unfortunately, osteoarthritis has become so common that it's now synonymous with aging in general.

Over 22 million Americans between 25-74 years old have moderate to severe osteoarthritis. It can develop as the result of chronic overuse (i.e. arthritis in the knees of long-time runners), past injuries (especially fractures and ACL tears), or chronically incorrect movement patterns (i.e. bowed legs).

Rheumatoid Arthritis

“Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.” (CDC)

Unlike osteoarthritis, RA isn’t caused by wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system is triggered and the body attacks itself, affecting the lining of the joints.

The results of RA can also cause more extreme issues such as joint deformity and bone erosion.

Doctor diagnosing arthritis in the hand

Dangers of Arthritis

Think of arthritis as a spectrum when looking at the symptoms, treatments, and results.

According to the CDC, 49.6% of seniors have diagnosed arthritis. Some people can continue with day-to-day activities with no issues and find their arthritis more of an inconvenience. Whereas others experience life-changing events and debilitating pain as a result of the disease.

Joint Replacement Surgery

Although surgery isn’t the first step in treating arthritis, it is a common final step for older adults and those who have years of damage to their joints.

The hip joint, for example, is one of the most common sites for arthritis. It’s especially common for people who have experienced years of more-than-normal force on the joint.

These individuals typically have a background in athletics, dance, distance running, or people who have been obese.

With arthritis, people lose hip mobility, the joint feels tight, stiff, and painful, and about a third of people with hip arthritis get a joint replacement [4].

Living With Pain

The Arthritis Foundation says, “Many people who have arthritis or a related disease may be living with chronic pain. Pain is chronic when it lasts three to six months or longer, but arthritis pain can last a lifetime. It may be constant, or it may come and go.”

For instance, someone with a less severe form of arthritis might carry heavy groceries without issue, but someone with severe arthritis and chronic pain may experience tremendous elbow pain and need to take lighter loads or get assistance to alleviate that burden on their elbow.

The Mayo Clinic states that “destructive mind-body interactions” including depression can be a result of living with the pain of arthritis if left untreated.

Losing Independence

About one in every 14 seniors require personal care assistance, according to the CDC. About one in every six adults age 85 years and older live in a nursing home.

The loss of independence is due to a few factors and arthritis is one of them. Being a prevalent source of pain, arthritis can limit physical abilities like walking upstairs, washing your hair, or carrying groceries–and could lead to relying on others more and more.

Strength is one of the biggest factors in determining how well we can physically function.

Woman Strength Training with Arthritis

Strength Training and Arthritis

The diagnosis of arthritis is not a guarantee of future disability. Lifestyle habits play a key role. Fortunately, you do have a say in how and if the disease progresses. With that in mind, let's dive into the research to see how strength training can help.

Men and women 55 years or older with knee arthritis participated in four months of strength training in one study [1]. The program featured two workouts per week using lower body exercises (i.e. leg press, leg curl, leg extension, etc.).

After starting with three weeks of easy to moderately challenging weights, the program featured relatively challenging resistances on the exercises.

As you would expect, the four-month program was effective in increasing strength:

  • the arthritic knees became 71% stronger.
  • pain and function improved… significantly.
  • pain decreased 41% while function increased 44%.

With less pain and an improved ability to use their knees, you can imagine that the participating men and women were happy with their results.

A second study looked at strength training with women over a six-month span [3]. The women in this study also used challenging weight loads but this time, slower repetition speeds (6-9 seconds per rep) were implemented.

The exercises were all lower body-based: the leg press, calf raises, leg curls, leg extensions, hip adduction, and hip abduction.

As a result of the study, the women:

  • improved their leg strength
  • reduced their arthritic pain
  • improved leg function
  • the rate of disability among the women decreased

The researchers stated that improving strength of the muscles around the knee is especially important for maintaining normal bone alignment, which is critical to preventing future disability. Specifically, they targeted the quadriceps as the key muscle group for those with knee arthritis to do custom exercises for.

Members of The Perfect Workout can target specific muscle groups like the quadriceps in their hand-picked exercises customized by a trainer for their needs.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Strength Training

Many RA patients are less physically active than their healthy counterparts (2). However, strength training will not worsen rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, experts and physicians overwhelmingly recommend it. An increase in strength means the muscles can better support your joints.

Additionally, RA can accelerate sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass with age, which in turn accelerates the loss of bone mass. In RA, this is called rheumatoid cachexia. It is especially important, then, for individuals with this condition to participate in regular, safe, effective strength training like at The Perfect Workout to prevent both muscle and bone loss.

Strength Training Helps Arthritis, Now What?

If you struggle with arthritis symptoms, we suggest performing regular (1 to 2x per week) high-intensity slow-motion strength training workouts.

The Perfect Workout trainers are certified in our SuperSlow method to ensure your workout is tailored specifically to your needs while providing the absolute safest method of resistance training.

Our method's enhanced safety is due to the slow movement, which minimizes the force produced on your joints and maximizes the muscular effort at the same time. This muscular challenge results in the body adapting with increased muscular strength.

Simply put, you don't have to accept arthritis as the end to a high quality of life and the activities you enjoy. Effective strength training improves the strength of the muscles supporting the joint, reduces arthritic pain, and helps prevent future disability.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Baker, K. R., Nelson, M. E., Felson, D. T., Layne, J. E., Sarno, R., & Roubenoff, R. (2001). The efficacy of home based progressive strength training in older adults with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Rheumatology, 28, 1655-166.
  2. Cooney JK, Law RJ, Matschke V, et al. Benefits of exercise in rheumatoid arthritis. J Aging Res. 2011;2011:681640. Published 2011 Feb 13. doi:10.4061/2011/681640 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042669/)
  3. Foroughi N., Smith R. M., Lange, A. K., Baker, M. K., Fiatarone Singh, M.A., & Vanwanselle, B. (2011). Lower limb muscle strengthening does not change frontal plane moments in women with knee osteoarthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Biomechanics, 26, 167-174.
  4. Quintana, J.M., Arostegui, I., & Escobar, A. (2008). Prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis and the appropriateness of joint replacement in an older population. JAMA Internal Medicine, 168(14), 1576-1584.
Trainer coaching woman on the Lat Pulldown machine

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How much protein do I need to build muscle

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

How much protein do you need to build muscle?

How much protein do you need to build muscle with different types of food

Hitting that point of temporary muscle failure on each exercise is the most important factor in getting benefits from strength training, in our opinion.

But, it's not the only factor that can affect results.

Have you ever asked, “How much protein do I need to build muscle?” In this article, we deep dive into the importance of protein, how much you need to gain muscle, how to get enough protein, and more. Let’s get into it…

Jump to Topic:
The Effects of Protein
How Much Protein is Enough?
High Protein Intake
Too Much Protein
How to Get Enough Protein
Protein Pays Off

The Effects of Protein

Protein intake affects how much lean muscle you gain from exercise. If eating more protein enables more muscle growth, then any additional protein to your usual diet should help, right?

It’s not quite that simple.

Researchers have discovered a phenomenon called the “protein change theory.” If you want to gain more strength and muscle by adding protein to a typical diet, there’s evidence you can’t just add a little more to make a difference.

Research has shown the increase in your diet must be significant.

The protein change theory was created after researchers noticed conflicting results of studies.

In studies when strength trainees increased their habitual protein intake, some gained strength and muscle, and others saw no change.

When looking closer at how much the intake was increased between those who got stronger and those who didn’t, a clear answer stood out:

  • Studies showing noticeable strength and muscle gains averaged a protein consumption increase of 60%.
  • Studies with small increases, such as those under 20%, led to no changes.

In terms of actual amounts, a 60% increase for a person who eats 50 grams of protein per day is jumping to a daily amount of 80 grams (which translates to about five more ounces of meat per day, considering an ounce contains 6-7 grams of protein).

To maximize muscle and strength growth, protein intake can have an effect. According to the protein change theory, a large increase, perhaps as much as two-thirds of your current intake, may be needed to notice extra results (depending on how much protein you’re already eating).

Otherwise, any change in protein consumption may not make as much of an impact on your strength or appearance.

A scoop of protein powder is how much you need

How Much Protein Is Enough?

Although many people normally eat a diet that provides sufficient protein that can provide for good strength training results, some people do not.

One recent study looking at protein intake with people who strength trained found that if enough protein isn't consumed, muscle development will be limited.

So how much is enough? In this study, the trainees ate one of three amounts of protein relative to their body weight:

  • 0.86 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
  • 1.4 g per kg/day
  • 2.4 g per kg/day.

The group eating 0.86 grams per kg/day developed less muscle than the 1.4 and 2.4 gram groups. Eating 0.86 grams per kg was not enough to help post-workout muscles rebuild to an optimal extent.

On the other hand, the 2.4 g group actually had an abnormally high rate of amino acid oxidation (breakdown), meaning that there was a large excess of protein. While 0.86 g was not enough, 2.4 g was too much.

The researchers concluded that a person who strength trains should consume a minimum of 1.3 g per kg of body weight per day.

To translate this formula into pounds, you can figure out your daily minimum by multiplying your weight by 0.7.

For example a:

  • 100 lb person x 0.7 = 70 grams of protein per day
  • 150 lb person, this is 105 grams per day
  • 200 lb person, this is 140 grams per day
  • 250 lb person, this is 175 grams per day

High-Protein Intake

According to the Journal of Nutrition, a high-protein intake is helpful for several reasons. A higher protein intake:

A high-protein diet is helpful for maximizing your physique, health, and physical function. But is there such a thing as too much?

Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Protein?

Earlier we mentioned there was such a thing as “too much” protein when overconsumption led to amino acid oxidation, but eating that much protein is not easy to do without massive changes to your diet. So, unless you’ve been consistently getting something like 350+g of protein in a day, (which is what a 175lb person eating 2.4g a kg would be) you won’t need to worry about this.

One concern some people have is the fear that eating more protein may lead to kidney damage. Some research supports the idea that this shouldn't be a concern for most people.

The University of Connecticut researchers in this study conclude, “We find no significant evidence for a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons.”

Also, the Institute of Medicine states that protein is safe to consume for 10- 35% of calorie intake. To put that in context, a person who consumes 100 grams of protein and 2,000 total calories per day only consumes 20% of calories from protein.

If you’re not sure you can eat enough protein simply because of how much food it would require you to consume in a day, read on.

How to get enough protein, a large spread of different types of food

How To Get Enough Protein

How can you reach the amount that’s recommended for a person of your weight? Consume a major source of protein at every meal.

Some “whole food” sources of highly digestible protein are poultry, fish, red meat, eggs, and dairy.

Other examples of high-protein foods include:

  • low-fat Greek yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • Tofu

For more non-meat, dairy-free protein alternatives, read Healthline’s 18 Best Protein Sources for Vegans here.

If looking for a protein supplement, consider whey, casein, egg, or pea protein. These supplements have high levels of most or all amino acids and are largely digestible. If you know you have allergens or sensitivities, especially to whey or milk protein, check out Precision Nutrition’s whey sensitivity & intolerance article here where they talk about alternative kinds of protein supplements.

Maximize your results by complementing your strength training program with a sufficient amount of protein intake each day.

Eating enough protein will ensure that you are gaining muscle, strength, managing your weight, and maintaining your physical function.

Protein Pays Off- A Real Life Story

We were emailed a real-life story of a high-intensity strength training member and her experience with protein needs:

“I was working with a woman who had lower than average muscle tone. This woman was approaching her senior years with a very small frame, below average muscle mass, and osteopenia (the precursor for osteoporosis).

Her goals: gain muscle, strength, and improve her bone density.
She quickly and fully absorbed the value of intensity, working to ‘muscle success' on every exercise a few sessions after starting. I can honestly say that I never left our sessions thinking that she could have worked harder.

However, despite a large capacity for physical improvement and her great effort, her body barely changed over the first two months. I was at a loss for words when witnessing the lack of change. Needless to say, she was unhappy with the training and with herself.

Fortunately, I had come across some research on protein intake at the time. After informing her of the researchers' recommendations, the woman admitted that she didn't consume much protein.

She made some diet adjustments and, sure enough, her body started to slowly develop into what she wanted. About three months later, she routinely showed up to sessions talking about compliments from friends and family about the muscle tone in her arms, shoulders, and thighs.

The funny thing is, even though her muscles made noticeable changes over the latter three months, it was her diet that changed. Specifically, it was her protein intake.”

It's extremely unlikely that you will “bulk up” like a bodybuilder, regardless of how much protein you eat. Instead, all of us over the age of 25 are fighting against age-related muscle loss (“sarcopenia”), which slows the metabolism, promotes fat gain, and is definitely not what you want.

We recommend striving to develop every bit of body shaping, calorie-burning muscle tissue that you can!

The relationship between strength training and nutrition is an interrelated one. While putting in a great effort at the end of each strength training exercise is key, protein provides the amino acids that your body uses to develop new muscle tissue.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Anderson, G.H. & Moore, S.E. (2004). Dietary proteins in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(4), 974S-979S.
  • Bosse, J. D., & Dixon, B. M. (2012). Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 42.
  • Graham, J. (2019). Why older adults should eat more protein (and not overdo protein shakes). KHN. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/why-older-adults-should-eat-more-protein-and-not-overdo-protein-shakes/
  • Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & metabolism, 2(1), 25.
  • Phillips SM. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to metabolic advantage. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006;31:647.
  • Phillips, S.M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, S158-S167.
Trainer coaching woman on the Lat Pulldown machine

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