Isometric/isokinetic muscle strength and isokinetic endurance of the lower extremities as well as aerobic capacity were evaluated in 67 patients (43 female, 24 male; mean age 53 years, range 23-65) with classical/definite rheumatoid arthritis (RA) of functional class II. Results obtained were compared with those of a healthy reference group matched for age and sex. Disease characteristics of the group with RA were registered and lifestyle characteristics, such as work load, exercise, diet, smoking, and alcohol habits, were reported by both groups. Generally, results showed that the group with RA had decreased functional capacity. Isometric hip and knee muscle strength of the rheumatoid group was reduced to about 75% of normal function, isokinetic knee muscle strength at the velocities of 60 and 180 degrees/s to about 65% and 75% of normal function respectively, isokinetic endurance of the knee muscle groups to about 45%, and aerobic capacity to about 80% of the results obtained for the healthy reference group. Analyses of variance showed that the rheumatoid group, compared with the healthy group, had significantly reduced function on all isometric and isokinetic tests of the extensors and flexors of the knee. Results for isometric hip muscle strength were similar--all tests but one yielding highly significant differences. To avoid unnecessary functional deficits it seems important to include muscular training in rehabilitation programmes for patients with RA.
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