The #1 Thing People Get Wrong About Arthritis

Recently, through my own experience of joint pain,  I started a journey of discovering what was causing my sudden knee and hip pain which led me to seeking a physiotherapist to help me fix the problem.  To my surprise, the main factor was muscle weakness.

For most of us, when we think about arthritis, we usually can come up with the same causes like wear and tear from being active for many years, repetitive tasks at work, old injuries, and the big one: AGE! All of these are factors but as we now know so is nutrition, lifestyle and much more.  But muscle weakness was a shocker to me considering I have been strength training for years so surely that couldn’t have been the cause!  Well, after only a few sessions where I was given some very specific strengthening exercises, I was starting to feel better, so I had to re-think my concepts about arthritis.  For this reason, I thought it was important to learn more because I know too many people who have started down the same path that I did which is feeling joint pain, to taking pain killers, to getting imaging, to surgery.  My hope is that if dealt with early on and understanding what is actually happening, people can avoid more pain, more degeneration and surgery.

Let’s talk about imaging first because there are some interesting statistics that my physiotherapist pointed out to me that would surprise you.  In a study of 115 asymptomatic adults, MRI abnormalities were found in %97 of knees: %48 had bone marrow lesion, %30 had meniscal tears, %21 had moderate tendonitis, and %3 had ligament ruptures.  In a review of 1057 asymptomatic adults, impingement was identified via MRI in %37-%67.   There are a lot more statistics like this but the point is this: normal age related changes begin to occur around the age of 25.  Do not fear “abnormal” imaging results, because they are very common and are not directly associated with pain.  In other words, if you get imaging done and the results show tears or arthritis you might be inclined to think about it negatively, worry, change the way you behave, stop being active etc., and that is not usually a good way to approach it.  This was important for me to learn because I too started to slow down and start thinking about surgery.  I was surprised when my therapist told me that she has seen plenty of 80-year-old patients who, based on their x-rays, had advanced arthritis but are still active and pain free!

Strength training is important in preventing and treating arthritis because stronger muscles mean stronger bones.  During weight-bearing activity, the muscles and tendons apply tension to the bones, which stimulates the bones to produce more bone tissue. As a result, bones become stronger and denser and the risk of osteopenia, osteoporosis, and fractures decreases.   Understanding that by strengthening muscles surrounding a joint will offset the load placed on joints means that you can lead and long, active life without joint pain.  This is so important to understand, especially for our older population, because as we age, we tend to reduce our physical activity and even more so strength training when the opposite is going to help you lead a strong, healthy, pain-free life. It is especially important because as we age, we naturally lose muscle so we must do all we can to maintain and/or increase muscle tissue.  Some other benefits of strength training are increased blood circulation to the joint which in some joints is minimal, fat loss, improved balance, improved mood, better sleep.

As I stated earlier, I have been strength training for years, so I thought I knew what it was all about, and I believed I was fairly strong.  But it wasn’t until I started physiotherapy that I realized I really didn’t know much about strengthening the smaller muscles around joints and the muscles that don’t get much attention because they aren’t the “showy” muscles.   But when I started with a few simple exercises with no resistance, I realized a couple of things: 1. How weak some key stability muscles were and 2. How I can really sweat without seemingly doing much at all!  I also realized how valuable how valuable and underrated physiotherapists and the like are.  We really need to put more focus on those professionals whose expertise it is to optimize the healthy functioning of our bodies to prevent injury and to stop the damage from progressing. Their expertise will help with proper form, understanding how much weight to use, using equipment incorrectly etc. We can use this expertise to capitalize our time dedicated to exercise which these days is limited and understanding that movement, even though is sounds counterproductive, is really the key to healing the damage done to joints.

How To Build Strength And Lose Weight Without Looking Like A Body Builder!

Many people see weightlifting as a way to build huge muscles and achieve a body builder-looking physique.  While this is a motivation for some, weightlifting is something everyone can and should do for optimal fitness. So, here’s how to build strength and lose weight without looking like a body builder! Regardless of your age, fitness level, or health goals as everyone can benefit from lifting weights.

Strength training promotes healthy bone density, skeletal muscle mass, and a healthy body fat percentage.  In this way, weightlifting will help you lose weight, boost your metabolism and give you a lean, toned physique.


Strength training involves using some form of resistance against your body to increase the size and strength of your skeletal muscles.

Forms of resistance can include:
  • Barbells
  • Dumbbells
  • Machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Your own body weight

Weightlifting increases lean muscle mass, and, of course, builds stronger muscles.


Because strength training increases lean muscle mass, it aids in weight loss.  How?  Lean muscle mass helps your body burn calories more efficiently.  It does this by increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate, or resting metabolism.

Two people could weigh the exact same amount, but the person with a higher muscle mass will burn fat and calories more efficiently.  In addition, the person with less body fat and more muscle will look leaner and more toned.

Click here to read, How To Lose Weight – 3 Beliefs That Make Us Fat.

Is Cardio Better than Strength Training for Fat Loss? How Exercise Impacts Weight Loss


In addition, weightlifting creates an after burn effect.  This means that it revs up your metabolism for up to several hours after your workout is complete.  After a workout, your body has to complete various tasks to recover, repair and build muscle.

One of the ways your body works to recover is via an increase in oxygen consumption.  This is called EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.  The duration of EPOC, or the afterburn, depends on both the duration and the intensity of your workout.  It can range from a few hours up to a day or so.


EPOC causes an increase in metabolism, which yields an additional calorie burn.  How many extra calories will you burn?  It depends.  The longer and more intense your workout, the longer the afterburn; therefore, the more calories you’ll burn.

However, you are not going to turn into a calorie-burning machine.  Studies show that even after intense workouts, EPOC yields only a slight increase in metabolism.  This means that most people will not burn an exorbitant amount of calories post-workout (think anywhere from 30-200 calories).

Furthermore, you shouldn’t view EPOC as a license to eat anything and everything you want.  Nutrition is the key to proper recovery, in addition to losing weight and building muscle.  Rather, for optimum results, stick to nutritious, whole foods that are rich in protein.  Things like lean meats, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, and protein powder are all good choices.

Click here to read, How to Start Eating Healthy and Stick to It for more on nutrition.


The more resistance you use, the harder your body will work.  This stimulates muscle growth, burns calories and boosts your metabolism.  Therefore, try lifting moderate to heavy weights.  You need to challenge your body to change your body!

If you’re a beginner, start out lifting light weights to acclimate yourself to the exercise. Then, gradually increase the load until you feel challenged.

Your body will adapt to the physical stress of lifting weights, and you will plateau if you always lift the same amount.  Therefore, it’s important to gradually increase the amount of weight you lift in order to continue to lose weight and increase your fitness.  Don’t worry about bulking up, either.  This would require frequently lifting heavy weights plus supplementation.

In addition to how much resistance you use, it’s also important to consider the types of strength training exercises you perform.  Full body or compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups will burn the most calories.  These exercises can include;

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Cleans
  • Sled pushes

These can also include a combination of two exercises such as;

  • Bicep curl to overhead press
  • Push-up to renegade row

These types of exercises will engage the big muscle groups and increase your heart rate.  Therefore, you will burn a greater amount of calories and boost your metabolism.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.  Or, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of the two.  Preferably, this would be distributed across the week, for least 4 days of exercise.  These guidelines also recommend at least 2 strength training sessions per week, using the major muscle groups.

Strength training sessions don’t have to take a long time in order to get the benefits.  You can spend as little as 20 minutes lifting weights, or up to an hour or so.  In general, the more intense the workout, the shorter it can be.  Incorporating full body exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups will engage the big muscle groups and therefore burn calories, even in a short amount of time.


Don’t forget about cardio!  While strength training is essential to achieving lean body mass, cardio is also essential.  Cardio burns more overall calories than strength training, which is necessary for weight loss.  However, cardio does not increase lean body mass like strength training does.  Therefore, a combination of strength training and cardio will give you optimal weight loss results.


It varies from person to person.  But in general, one cardio session for every strength training session will get the job done.  Refer back to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for general exercise recommendations.  For more personalized exercise plans, speak with a healthcare or fitness professional to determine your specific needs.

Including strength and cardio, there are 4 Types of Exercise that will transform your body and improve your fitness.


Weightlifting is a critical component for losing weight and transforming your body.  Regular strength training will yield a lean, toned physique, as well as improve overall confidence.  If you’ve considered beginning a strength training regimen in the past but haven’t yet taken the first steps, now is the time!  Get with a personal trainer or healthcare professional to come up with a plan that suits your needs and goals and properly show you how to build strength safely.

For more weight loss tips, check out my post on 9 Surprising Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight.