Are patients with rheumatoid arthritis less physically active than the general population?

J Clin Rheumatol. 2007 Aug;13(4):181-6. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0b013e318124a8c4.


Background: Although promoting physical activity (PA) and exercise among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is highly advocated nowadays, little is known about actual PA levels of these patients. In particular, the literature investigating how these PA levels are in proportion to the levels among the general population is scarce.

Objective: To compare the self-reported PA levels of patients with RA with those of the general Dutch population.

Methods: A sample of 400 RA patients were sent the Short QUestionnaire to ASsess Health-Enhancing PA comprising 10 questions about PA. From these data the proportions meeting the Dutch public health recommendation for PA (i.e., moderate PA for 30 minutes on > or = 5 days/wk) and the total number of minutes of PA per week were calculated. These data were compared with similar data from a representative sample of the general Dutch population.

Results: Two hundred fifty-two patients returned the questionnaire (response 63%). The proportions of RA patients meeting the PA recommendation were similar to those of the general population (57% in categories 45-64 years; 59% in categories > or = 65 years, and 58% in the total groups). The average number of minutes of PA per week was significantly lower in the RA population compared with the general population in the category 45 to 64 years (1836 vs. 2199, respectively, P = 0.001), whereas the difference in the category > or = 65 years was not significant (1115 vs. 1218 minutes, respectively, P = 0.33).

Conclusions: The proportion of RA patients meeting the Dutch PA recommendation was similar to the general Dutch population. However, with respect to the average number of minutes of PA per week, the RA patients were less physically active. Because patients with RA have an increased risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis or cardiovascular diseases along with their arthritis, it remains a matter of utmost importance for health care professionals such as rheumatologists, physical therapists, and clinical nurse specialists to promote PA in daily clinical practice and guide patients in achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Netherlands
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors