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Purpose of review: As muscle weakness is common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), strength training is considered to be an important cornerstone of the nonpharmacological treatment. The training methods have varied widely between the studies. Thus, the purpose of this review is to discuss effectiveness and safety but also basic principles and specificity of strength training.

Recent findings: Moderate or high-intensity strength training has been effective and well-tolerated method to increase or maintain muscle strength in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. No deleterious effects on disease activity and pain were observed. More information is needed regarding long-term effects of strength training on functional capacity, bone mineral density, and radiologic progression.

Summary: Moderate or high-intensity strength training programs have better training effects on muscle strength in RA than low-intensity programs. The type of exercises, intensity, and frequency of training are key factors in the effectiveness of training. It is, however, essential to maintain the training routine to obtain long-term benefits from it.

(C) 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.