Background Randomised controlled trials have shown exercise benefits people’s general health. For individuals living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), various factors may influence their ability or willingness to exercise (Maradit-Kremers et al., 2005; Wolfe et al., 2008).
Objectives The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of the perceptions and beliefs about the ability to exercise in people with RA.
Methods Six participants aged between 39-76 years with various stages of RA were recruited from the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS). A focus group lasting 60 minutes was run to explore people’s perceptions and beliefs about exercising with RA. Questions had been derived from relevant literature and had been piloted. The focus group was recorded and transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was used to code the data and identify pertinent themes.
Results Seven distinct themes were identified. These were; the belief that specific symptoms prevented exercise, medication modifies the ability to exercise; frustration from not being able to take exercise; benefits of taking exercise; limitations to participation during exercise class; fear of pain or catching colds/infection and conflict in advice from health professionals. All six participants reported they understood the benefits of exercise and each enjoyed taking an appropriate form of exercise. All participants agreed that certain types of exercise could improve their muscle strength but believed that dynamic and weight-bearing exercise would damage their joints.
Conclusions The findings suggest that people with RA want to exercise and believe that their medication helps them achieve this. However it was evident that people with RA receive conflicting advice from health care professionals about what is appropriate exercise and alongside fear of pain, joint damage and infection could limit people’s willingness to engage with exercise.
References Maradit-Kremers H, Crowson C, Nicola P Ballman KV, roger VL, Jacobson SJ, Gabriel SE (2005). Increased unrecognized coronary heart disease and sudden deaths in rheumatoid arthritis: a population-based cohort study. Arthritis and Rheumatism 52: 402–411.
Wolfe F, Michaud K (2008) The risk of myocardial infarction and pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic myocardial infarction predictors in rheumatoid arthritis: a cohort and nested case control analysis. Arthritis Rheumatology 58: 2612-2621 DOI: 10.1002/art.23811.
Acknowledgements I am grateful to Dr J Adams and Dr M Donovan-Hall for supervising this project and allowing me to perform my studies within the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, and providing continual support, advice and encouragement throughout the project. I would like to thank Hannah Haywood for all the assistance given to me. Ailsa Bosworth Chief Director, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, for all their support and thank you to the participants whom without their co-operation I would not have succeeded with this project.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared