Background Exercise is of paramount importance for rheumatology patients, but in practice few patients exercise effectively. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games were seen as a catalyst to increase mass participation in physical activity1.
Objectives We studied our patient group to find out if the Olympics inspired them to increase exercise.
Methods Two weeks and two months after the Olympics/Paralympics we invited all outpatients attending rheumatology clinics over three week periods to complete anonymous questionnaires comprised of questions regarding activity levels, lifestyle, motivation, obstacles and attitudes to exercise.
Results 87 questionnaires were completed in the first survey and 85 in the second. The mean patient age was 54.4 years (range 22-87); 93 female. 23 (13%) were current smokers, 64 (37%) were ex-smokers and 93 (54%) never smoked.
78 (45%) patients state that they exercised daily, 51 (30%) weekly, 29 (17%) less than weekly and 14 (8%) patients did not exercise.
Types of exercise included walking (84%), swimming (21%) and cycling (15%). 113 (66%) claimed they have never been advised to exercise by a health professional. The most common barriers to exercise were pain (53%), tiredness (44%), lack of time (36%) and lack of motivation (23%).
163 (95%) patients thought exercise to be beneficial; 61 (36%) thought exercise could cause harm. Interviewees rated the importance of exercise on a 10 cm VAS at a mean value of 8.1 (SD 1.8), and their confidence to maintain an exercise programme at a mean value of 6.2 (SD 2.9).
After 2 weeks, 11 (13%) patients felt the Olympics/Paralympics had altered their attitudes towards exercising. 5 (6%) increased their amount of exercise having watched Olympics/Paralympics, this subgroup consists of never-smokers only. Their visual analogue scale values the importance of regular exercise significantly higher (p<0.05) than the current smokers.
After 2 months, 16 (18%) patients felt the Olympics/Paralympics increased their motivation towards physical activity. 8 (9%) patients increased their amount of exercise since watching the Olympics/Paralympics. They were mostly inspired by athlete’s individual stories (69%), demonstration of top sporting levels (25%) and taking part in a big sports festival (6%). 65% of the patients followed the games on the media and 35% attended events actively on the Olympic sites. 17 (20%) of the patients considered themselves physically disabled, 2 (12%) of those felt that the Paralympics motivated them to exercise more.
Conclusions Although the majority (95%) of patients regard exercise as beneficial, more than one third (36%) still thinks it does harm, less than half (45%) exercise daily, mostly just walking. A small minority of patients increased their amount of exercise in response to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. This figure increased two months after the games from 6% to 9%. Patients were most inspired by athlete’s individual stories. These could be used in future to as part of a strategy to promote physical exercise for rheumatology patients.
Developing a physical activity legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games: a policy-led systematic review; Mike Weed, Esther Coren, Jo Fiore, Ian Wellard, Louise Mansfield, Dikaia Chatziefstathiou and Suzanne Dowse; Perspectives in Public Health 2012 132: 75
Disclosure of Interest None Declared