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2 in 5 adults with rheumatoid arthritis are physically inactive

Experts suggest initiatives to motivate RA patients to activity improves public health

A new study, funded by a grant from the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), found that two in five adults (42%) with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were inactive. Taking measures to motivate RA patients to increase their physical activity will improve public health according to the findings now available in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

The ACR estimates nearly 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with RA, a chronic autoimmune condition characterized by systemic joint inflammation that can damage joints, impair function, and cause significant disability. Until the early 1980s, medical experts recommended medication and rest for those with arthritis. However, current medical evidence now suggests that regular, moderate physical activity benefits arthritis sufferers by maintaining joint flexibility, improving balance, strengthening muscles, and reducing pain.

"While there is much evidence of the benefits of physical activity, RA patients are generally not physically active, and physicians often do not encourage regular physical activity in this patient population," explains Dr. Jungwha Lee, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. "Our study aims to expand understanding of the risk factors associated with inactivity among adults with RA and encourage clinical interventions that promote participation in physical activity."

Dr. Lee and colleagues analyzed data on 176 RA patients, 18 years of age or older enrolled in a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of an intervention promoting physical activity. The team evaluated pre-intervention data for inactivity which was defined as no sustained 10-minute periods of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during a week. Researchers also assessed the relationships between inactivity and modifiable risk factors such as motivation for physical activity, obesity, and pain.

Results show that 42% of RA patients were inactive; participating in no moderate-to-vigorous physical activity periods of at least ten minutes during a 7-day period of objective activity monitoring. Researchers found that 53% of study participants lacked strong motivation for physical activity and 49% lacked strong beliefs in the benefits of physical activity. These two modifiable risk factors account for 65% of excess inactivity in this study group.

While previous research relied on self-reported physical activity measures, the strength of the current study lies in the use of accelerometers—a device used to measure acceleration and movement—to objectively assess physical activity in participants. "Physical inactivity among RA patients is a public health concern," concludes Dr. Lee. "Our results suggest that public health initiatives need to address the lack of motivation to exercise and promote the benefits of physical activity to reduce the prevalence of inactivity in those with RA."

This study is published in Arthritis Care & Research. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Full citation: "The Public Health Impact of Risk Factors for Physical Inactivity in Adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis." Jungwha Lee, Dorothy Dunlop, Linda Ehrlich-Jones, Pamela Semanik, Jing Song, Larry Manheim, Rowland W. Chang. Arthritis Care & Research; Published Online: January 26, 2012 (DOI: 10.1002/acr.21582).

URL Upon publication:

About the Journal:

Arthritis Care & Research is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College. Arthritis Care & Research is a peer-reviewed research publication that publishes both original research and review articles that promote excellence in the clinical practice of rheumatology. Relevant to the care of individuals with arthritis and related disorders, major topics are evidence-based practice studies, clinical problems, practice guidelines, health care economics, health care policy, educational, social, and public health issues, and future trends in rheumatology practice. The journal is published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). For more information, please visit
About Wiley-Blackwell:

Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit or our new online platform, Wiley Online Library (, one of the world's most extensive multidisciplinary collections of online resources, covering life, health, social and physical sciences, and humanities.

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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