Physical inactivity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: data from twenty-one countries in a cross-sectional, international study

Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Jan 15;59(1):42-50. doi: 10.1002/art.23255.


Objective: Regular physical activity is associated with decreased morbidity and mortality. Traditionally, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been advised to limit physical exercise. We studied the prevalence of physical activity and associations with demographic and disease-related variables in patients with RA from 21 countries.

Methods: The Questionnaires in Standard Monitoring of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (QUEST-RA) is a cross-sectional study that includes a self-report questionnaire and clinical assessment of nonselected consecutive outpatients with RA who are receiving usual clinical care. Frequency of physical exercise (>or=30 minutes with at least some shortness of breath, sweating) is queried with 4 response options: >or=3 times weekly, 1-2 times weekly, 1-2 times monthly, and no exercise.

Results: Between January 2005 and April 2007, a total of 5,235 patients from 58 sites in 21 countries were enrolled in QUEST-RA: 79% were women, >90% were white, mean age was 57 years, and mean disease duration was 11.6 years. Only 13.8% of all patients reported physical exercise>or=3 times weekly. The majority of the patients were physically inactive with no regular weekly exercise: >80% in 7 countries, 60-80% in 12 countries, and 45% and 29% in 2 countries, respectively. Physical inactivity was associated with female sex, older age, lower education, obesity, comorbidity, low functional capacity, and higher levels of disease activity, pain, and fatigue.

Conclusion: In many countries, a low proportion of patients with RA exercise. These data may alert rheumatologists to motivate their patients to increase physical activity levels.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires