Results of recent studies indicate that high intensity exercise programs may be beneficial for patients with RA. Beliefs about the outcomes of high intensity exercise will influence the willingness of rheumatologists and physiotherapists (PT’s) to refer patients for participation in high intensity exercise programs and the willingness of RA patients themselves to participate in such programs. The aim of this study was to examine the expectations of rheumatologists, PT’s and RA-patients with respect to the outcome of high intensity exercise in comparison with conventional exercise.
Methods A self-developed exercise beliefs questionnaire was administered to 153 rheumatologists, 624 PT’s and 807 RA-patients who were eligible for participation in a multicenter, randomised controlled trial on the effect of a long-term intensive exercise programme. The questionnaire comprised two questions about negative outcome expectations (exercise results in joint damage and exercise results in an increase of disease activity) and two questions about positive outcome expectations (exercise is beneficial, exercise results in an increase in physical fitness) for both high intensity exercise and conventional exercise separately. Total scores for outcome expectations were calculated and ranged from very negative (–6) to very positive (6).
Results The response rates for rheumatologists, PT’s and patients were 83%, 70% and 75%. Only the results of PT’s treating at least one RA-patient per week (n = 121, 28% of responding PT’s) are presented.
Conclusion Rheumatologists, PT’s and RA-patients have more negative expectations about the outcome of high intensity exercise than about the outcome of conventional exercise. This finding may be a potential barrier for referral to or participation in high intensity exercise programs. Factors underlying the relatively negative attitude towards high intensity exercise, such as a lack of information and personal experiences with high intensity exercise, need to be further examined.
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