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Effect of intensive exercise on patients with active rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised clinical trial
  1. C H M van den Endea,
  2. F C Breedvelda,
  3. S le Cessieb,
  4. B A C Dijkmansc,
  5. A W de Mugd,
  6. J M W Hazesa
  1. aDepartment of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands, bDepartment of Medical Statistics, Leiden University Medical Centre, cDepartment of Rheumatology, Free University Hospital Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, dDepartment of Physical Therapy, Leiden University Medical Centre
  1. Dr C H M van den Ende, Leiden University Medical Centre, Department of Rheumatology, C4-R, Postbox 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands Email:e.vandenende{at}


OBJECTIVE To investigate the effects of a dynamic, intensive exercise regimen on pain, disease activity, and physical functioning in active rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

METHODS 64 patients with RA with a mean age of 60 (13) years and mean disease duration of 8 (8) years, admitted to hospital because of active disease, were randomly assigned to an intensive exercise programme or to a conservative exercise programme during their period in hospital with a mean length of 30 (14) days. The intensive exercise programme consisted of knee and shoulder dynamic and isometric muscle strengthening exercises against resistance five times a week and conditioning bicycle training three times a week and was supplemental to the conservative exercise programme of range of motion and isometric exercises. Indices of disease activity, pain, muscle strength, and functional ability were assessed at 0, 3, 6, 12, and 24 weeks by a blinded observer.

RESULTS The medical treatment during the study was the same in both groups. Both groups improved in measures of disease activity, differences between groups were not statistically significant. The mean improvement in disease activity score at 24 weeks in the intensive and conservative exercise group was −1.4 (1.5) and −0.7 (1.4), respectively. Measures of physical functioning improved significantly for patients in the intensive exercise group, and differences between groups were statistically significant for measures of muscle strength.

CONCLUSION A short term intensive exercise programme in active RA is more effective in improving muscle strength than a conservative exercise programme and does not have deleterious effects on disease activity.

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • exercise

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