Background and purpose: Physical activity is an important tool used by patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in order to reduce inflammation and pain as well as preserve and improve function. The aim of this study was to investigate how patients with RA perceive and relate to physical activity in everyday life.
Methods: Ten patients diagnosed with RA were interviewed. The data collected were transcribed and analysed for categories of meaning and main themes. Inter-judge reliability was tested and showed an 81.5% agreement.
Results: Three themes were identified. The first represented a 'driving force' and included two positively loaded categories 'satisfaction' and 'support', and two negatively loaded categories 'keep at bay' and 'intimidation'. The second theme was 'hindrance' and included the categories 'internal barrier' and 'external barrier' and, finally, the third theme 'physical activity' included the categories 'organized activity' and 'everyday activity'.
Conclusion: Physical exercise was an important strategy for patients with RA and was promoted primarily by patients' own experiences, positive as well as negative. A salutogenic (explaining health) approach to patient education, as well as an increased use of everyday activities as additional exercise, is advocated.