Effectiveness of an overall progressive resistance strength program for improving the functional capacity of patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized controlled trial

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To evaluate the effectiveness of overall progressive resistance training in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.


Randomized controlled clinical trial with blinded assessor and intention-to-treat analysis.


Outpatient clinics.


Sixty patients with rheumatoid arthritis according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria, aged between 18 and 65 years old, under stable medication and not performing regular physical activity were randomized into two groups: intervention group (IG) and control group (CG).


IG performed the progressive resistance strength training, twice a week, during 12 weeks. The training consists of exercising various muscle groups using a load of 50% and 70% of one repetition maximum. The load was reassessed and adjusted after six weeks of baseline. Both groups remained in conventional drug treatment during the study.

Main measures:

Patients were evaluated at baseline and after 6, 12, and 24 weeks, using HAQ and SF-36 questionnaires and strength.


Thirty-three patients in the CG and 27 in the IG were evaluated. The groups were homogeneous at baseline. Statistical and clinical improvement were found with better results for the IG in the HAQ questionnaire (P=0.030), functional capacity (0=0.022) and pain (P=0.027) domains of SF-36; and muscle strength for flexors of right and left knee (P=0.005 and p=0.14), abductors of shoulder (P=0.041) and extensors of right and left wrists (P=0.003 and P= 0.005).


This progressive resistance strength training improves physical function as well as grip and muscular strength of knee flexors, shoulder abductors and wrist extensors in patients with RA, without adverse effects.

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