Inactive with RA

Rheumatoid arthritis patients are not getting enough exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Exercise is a great way for rheumatoid arthritis patients to keep their joints flexible and to reduce pain. Despite the proven benefits of exercise, many arthritis patients are still sitting on their bums.

Two out of five rheumatoid arthritis patients were inactive, according to a recent study. The findings suggest that doctors and policymakers should do more to encourage exercise among rheumatoid arthritis patients.

"Exercise to reduce the pain of your arthritis."

Even with all the evidence showing that exercise is good for rheumatoid arthritis, a great deal of patients are not physically active, and doctors often do not encourage these patients to exercise, explains Jungwha Lee, Ph.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and lead author of the study.

"Our study aims to expand understanding of the risk factors associated with inactivity among adults with [rheumatoid arthritis] and encourage clinical interventions that promote participation in physical activity," she says.

For their study, Dr. Lee and colleagues examined data on 176 rheumatoid arthritis patients over the age of 18 in order to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention encouraging physical activity.

The researchers found that 42 percent of the participants were inactive.

Their findings also show that 53 percent of the participants did not have strong motivation to exercise, while another 49 percent did not strongly believe in the benefits of physical activity.

These two risk factors (the lack of motivation combined with a lack of strong belief in the benefits of exercise) accounted for 65 percent of excess inactivity in the study group.

In their study, the researchers measured inactivity in patients before intervention. Inactivity was defined as no sustained 10-minute periods of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity over the course of a week. They also studied the links between inactivity and risk factors for inactivity such as motivation for physical activity, obesity, and pain.

Unlike past studies, which measured physical activity by asking patients to self-report, this study measured physical activity using accelerometers, devices that calculate acceleration and movement. This method of measurement is one strength of the current study, as the use of accelerometers provides a more objective measurement of physical activity.

"Physical inactivity among [rheumatoid arthritis] patients is a public health concern," says Dr. Lee.

"Our results suggest that public health initiatives need to address the lack of motivation to exercise and promote the benefits of physical activity to reduce the prevalence of inactivity in those with [rheumatoid arthritis]," she concludes.

The results of this randomized controlled trial appear in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. The researchers received funding from a grant from the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 3, 2012
Last Updated:
July 29, 2014