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Lifting Weights with Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is the most common chronic joint condition in America, mostly affecting those older than 65, according to the Arthritis Foundation. When people develop osteoarthritis, the cartilage in their joints breaks down, restricting movement and causing pain. There are several factors that contribute to the advance of osteoarthritis, including genetic predisposition, obesity, injury and repetitive movement. Lifestyle factors can prevent or slow the onset of osteoarthritis, such as proper diet and exercise, including weightlifting.

  1. Talk to your doctor and ask her to help you design a weightlifting program for your individual needs. She should be able to recommend the amount of weight you should lift, the specific muscle groups to work and the frequency of your workouts. She can also tell you about the side effects of any osteoarthritis medication you are taking that would affect weightlifting.

  2. Perform flexibility stretches before your workout. Adhere to your doctor’s recommendations. Stretches should consist of warming up the muscles by extending them and contracting them through their full range of motion.

  3. Use correct posture for your exercises. Lift weights with slow, smooth movements, and do not lock your joints at the end of the movements. Exhale during the part of each movement that expends the most energy.

  4. Work muscle groups that support the joints where you have osteoarthritis. Work opposing muscle groups to balance their abilities. This can relieve pain and slow the progress of osteoarthritis. For example, if the osteoarthritis is in your knees, concentrate on strengthening your quadriceps muscles and the opposing hamstring muscles.

  5. Cool down after each weightlifting session. Walk or slowly pedal an exercise bike until your heart rate and breathing return to normal. Do some simple stretches as well.

  6. Work out at least three times a week. Skip a day between each weightlifting session. This will give your muscles a chance to repair themselves.


    Ask your doctor if you should wear an orthopedic brace for weightlifting. Wear comfortable, supportive athletic shoes and clothes for your workouts. Lift weights on a cushioned surface. Work out with a friend. It will keep you motivated and make workouts more fun. Supplement your weightlifting with aerobic activities, such as walking, on the days you do not lift weights. Eat a healthy diet to help your body perform at its best.


    Do not begin an exercise program without consulting your doctor first. Stop lifting weights immediately if you have sudden, increased joint pain, swelling or failure, or experience shortness of breath.

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About the Author

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.

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