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Does Weight Loss Help Symptoms of Arthritis and Joint Pain?


Updated June 30, 2014

Question: Does Weight Loss Help Symptoms of Arthritis and Joint Pain?
Answer: The scientific data are very clear: even modest reductions in body weight can significantly reduce the symptoms of joint pain. Research has shown us that a 5% to 10% reduction of body weight can dramatically reduce joint pain and improve exercise tolerance. That's great news if you are overweight!

While no one is suggesting that losing weight is easy, this does provide optimism for people who are overweight and have arthritis. Weight loss is difficult when you have bad joints; however, there are ways to exercise that do not place too much stress on the joints of your body.

Tips to Lose Weight for Arthritis

  • #1: Keep Your Goal Reasonable
    If you lose a lot of weight, that's terrific. When starting out, though, you should keep your goals simple. Don't worry about your ideal body weight. Try first to lose 10 pounds, and then keep that weight off.

  • #2: Low-Impact Is the Way to Go
    Losing weight may require you to learn a new way to exercise. Most patients I have dealing with arthritis find walking long distances difficult. Therefore, trying to exercise by walking may not work out. Take up swimming or water aerobics as a way to exercise without joint pain.

  • #3: Diet Is Just as Important
    Watching what you eat is just as important as the exercise you perform. Weight loss goals can be best achieved with a healthy diet and appropriate exercise. Trying to lose weight by a sudden, dramatic change in exercise habits or diet is unlikely to succeed. Instead, find more subtle changes that you can adapt to and maintain.

  • #4: Get Help
    Achieving the goal of weight loss is much more likely to be successful if you have help and a support network. Some ideas include talking with your doctor, making goals with friends and using online tools to help you achieve your goals. Joining an online community can help you get the support you need.


Miller GD, et al. "Intensive weight loss program improves physical function in older obese adults with knee osteoarthritis" Obesity 2006 Jul;14(7):1219-30.

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