Bodybuilding Can Help You Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis!

Bodybuilding can help prevent some diseases (sarcopenia and osteoporosis to name a few) and help manage the symptoms in other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

A bodybuilder is someone who takes better care of himself/herself through cardiovascular training, resistance training, eating a good diet and taking dietary supplements. This is someone who is engaging in preventive health measures to ensure they live a long, healthy life and minimize their risk of developing various chronic diseases.

Bodybuilding can help prevent some diseases (sarcopenia and osteoporosis to name a few) and help manage the symptoms in other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the thin layer of tissue, which lines the space between joints (called the synovium). Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis typically include pain, fatigue and joint stiffness. This is a serious disease that can result in long-term damage to the joints, chronic pain, decreased functioning and disability.

This Is A Serious Disease That Can Result In Long-Term Damage To The Joints.
+ Click To Enlarge.
This Is A Serious Disease That Can
Result In Long-Term Damage To The Joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is systemic, meaning it can affect other organs of the body. There is no cure for RA but an early diagnosis and aggressive treatment plan is essential for limiting joint damage and the ensuing issues that arise from joint damage (loss of movement, decreased ability to work, medical expenses and potential surgery).

Risk Factors

    Though the exact cause of RA is unknown, it is considered an autoimmune disease because the immune system mistakes healthy tissue as a foreign substance and attacks it.
  • Women are two to three times as likely as men to get RA
  • In the year after pregnancy women are more likely to develop RA
  • Genetics may play a role in the development of RA with Caucasians carrying the gene more than any other ethnicity (though just carrying the gene alone does not mean that you will develop RA)

There isn't much, if anything, that you can do to prevent the onset of RA. However, you can manage the disease to the best extent possible and live a better life.

Bodybuilding Can Help You Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

    There is no cure for RA but you can manage the symptoms. Here are some of the recommendations that come with managing this disease:


      Prolonged joint inactivity makes the symptoms of RA worse. People with RA benefit from moving to maintain their muscle strength, flexibility and health. And, exercise can help reduce the pain and improve mobility and functioning as well.



      and conditioning are recommended for RA patients.
      As a bodybuilder, you know how important

    strength training

      is for your physical and mental health. Studies show that strength training can improve or maintain the quality of life in those with RA. And, people with RA have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis - a disease that a good sound bodybuilding program can help prevent.

    Eat A Balanced Diet:

      A good diet, low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables is recommended for those with RA.

    In fact, diet is very important for a few reasons - RA increases your risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease. And, a sound diet can reduce inflammation, which will help decrease the symptoms associated with RA.

      As a bodybuilder, you eat a very clean diet and supplement with

    omega-3fish oil

      (or eat fatty fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 rich fatty fish helps decrease some of the risk factors associated with

    heart disease

      and reduce swelling in those with RA. Also, you get plenty of



    vitamin D

      through a combination of

    whey protein shakes



      - another tactic to prevent the bone loss that may result from RA.

    Rest When Tired:

      RA causes fatigue and therefore adequate rest is essential. As a bodybuilder, you get the right amount of rest to help your muscles grow and your body


      . This will also help you manage RA.

    Additional Tips To Help You Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

      After diagnosis and a thorough evaluation, the next steps in the treatment plan for RA combines will include a combination of the following:
    • Patient education.
    • Physical and occupational therapy.
    • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce joint pain and swelling and improve functioning.
    • Local or oral steroids
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
    • Surgery
    • Use heat therapy to reduce joint pain and stiffness including warm showers or baths, soaking hands in warm wax baths, sleeping under a warm electric blanket.
    • Use assistive devices when beneficial to reduce joint strain and/or improve functioning.


    Rheumatoid arthritis is one of those diseases that you can't prevent from happening. However, you can do your best to manage the symptoms of RA and lead a very productive life. Bodybuilding can help you do that. Strength training, rest and eating a balanced diet are important for bodybuilding and luckily, these are crucial to the management of RA as well.

    About The Author:

    Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, has counseled hundreds of individuals on weight loss and sports nutrition. For more information, visit her website:


    • Rheumatoid Arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation.
    • Guidelines for the Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology 1996;39(5): 713-722.
    • Proudman SM, Cleland LG, James MJ. Dietary omega-3 fats for treatment of inflammatory joint disease: efficacy and utility. Rheum Dis Clin North Am 2008;34(2):469-79.