Background Exercise plays an important role in the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to maintain musculoskeletal health and also modify associated risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Understanding of safety and effectiveness of the role of exercise in management of RA has evolved in the recent years. Due to changing recommendations the patients may not have up-to-date information. As part of preparing a patient education programme, we wanted to gain understanding of existing knowledge, attitude, practices and perceived barriers regarding exercise in RA.
Objectives The aim of this survey was to collect data on specific aspects of day-to-day activities, intensity, frequency and duration of any specific exercise in RA patients. The questions on patient’s existing knowledge and beliefs about role and safety of exercise were also included. Other relevant information such as age, sex, duration of disease, education, employment status were also gathered.
Methods An anonymous questionnaire based survey was conducted in patients with RA attending a rheumatology clinic. The questionnaire was developed by a multidisciplinary rheumatology team in consultation with patient representatives.
Results Survey was completed by 200 patients over a six month period of which 129 (65.5%) were females, with age distribution of 2% (<20 years), 17.5% (21-40 years), 48% (41-60 years) and 32.5% (>60 years).
65% of patients considered themselves physically active as compared to 35% who did not.
52% took regular exercise in addition to their daily routine. In patients aged 21-60 years, 80% considered themselves physically active although only 60% took regular exercise. Of Patients aged >60, 49% considered themselves physically active although only 34% took regular exercise.
18% of patients felt that RA patients should not exercise as it is not safe for them. 43% felt that gentle exercise was safe, 35% felt that moderate exercise was safe and only 4% felt that more than moderate exercise was safe. 44 patients out of 200 had not received any formal education or qualifications and 63.6% (28/44) of them did not exercise. Of the rest who had received GCSE or above level education, 43.5% (68/156) did no regular exercise.
Looking at the duration of disease and exercise, 52.3% of patients who had disease for less than 5 years did regular exercise as compared to 43.7% of patients who had the disease for >21 years. There was a difference in exercise levels of people who were in employment 58.3% (56/96) as compared to people who were not 46.1% (48/104).
Conclusions In this survey only 39% patients were aware that moderate to high intensity exercise is safe in RA. Interestingly, although almost 80% patients felt that gentle, moderate or moderate plus exercise is safe in RA only 65% of patients considered themselves as physically active. This suggests that there is not only need for educating patients on safety of moderate to high intensity exercise but also on identifying other barriers. There was a significant difference in activity and exercise levels based on employment and educational status and also the disease duration, patients diagnosed in recent years of all ages were better informed.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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