Background Despite the potential benefits of exercise, 68% of RA patients are considered to be physically inactive in the UK1. This extreme physical inactivity plays an important role in terms of patient health and disease progression. It also highlights the need to encourage exercise amongst this population as part of routine care.
Objectives To determine whether a short term group exercise programme supervised by an exercise physiologist in a clinical setting can improve fatigue, QoL and general well being of RA patients without any worsening of disease activity.
Methods 10 RA patients (mean±SD age 64.2±5.9 yrs; disease duration 10.7±11.5 yrs) attended a physiotherapy gym for group exercise classes 3 times a week for 8 weeks. Each exercise class lasted one hour and comprised of a warm up, three 10 minute aerobic and resistance exercises. Heart rate and perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded regularly throughout the session to monitor exercise intensity. RA activity, QoL, body composition, fitness and function were assessed at baseline and after the 8 week programme. Fitness was measured using a validated step test that provides an estimation of VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake).
Results Table 1 shows the RA disease, body composition and physical function measures at baseline and post exercise. RA patients had well controlled disease at baseline. Reported disability, and quality of life improved with a significant reduction in fatigue. Pain, global health and disease activity also improved significantly. Body fat, waist and hip circumference significantly improved as did fitness, lower body strength and agility.
Conclusions This study has shown that in an 8 week supervised exercise programme there were significant improvements in RA patient’s fatigue and quality of life. Benefits were also seen in disease activity and pain. There was a significant reduction in body fat percent and improvement of physical fitness and function. An important element of this study was the exercise physiologist who was able to encourage, monitor and motivate the group to their maximum exercise potential. This type of exercise prescription should be encouraged as part of a RA’s chronic disease management. However further work is needed regarding the skill and cost benefits of the supervisory input and also how to maintain the healthy lifestyle long term.
Sokka T, Hakkinen A, Kautiainen H, et al. (2008). Physical inactivity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: data from twenty-one countries in a cross-sectional, international study. Arthritis Rheum.59:42–50
Disclosure of Interest None Declared