Objective: To investigate the effect of a 1-year coaching program for healthy physical activity on perceived health status, body function, and activity limitation in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: A total of 228 patients (169 women, 59 men, mean age 55 years, mean time since diagnosis 21 months) were randomized to 2 groups after assessments with the EuroQol visual analog scale (VAS), Grippit, Timed-Stands Test, Escola Paulista de Medicina Range of Motion scale, walking in a figure-of-8, a visual analog scale for pain, the Health Assessment Questionnaire disability index, a self-reported physical activity questionnaire, and the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints. All patients were regularly seen by rheumatologists and underwent rehabilitation as prescribed. Those in the intervention group were further individually coached by a physical therapist to reach or maintain healthy physical activity (> or =30 minutes, moderately intensive activity, most days of the week).
Results: The retention rates after 1 year were 82% in the intervention group and 85% in the control group. The percentages of individuals in the intervention and control groups fulfilling the requirements for healthy physical activity were similar before (47% versus 51%; P > 0.05) and after (54% versus 44%; P > 0.05) the intervention. Analyses of outcome variables indicated improvements in the intervention group over the control group in the EuroQol VAS (P = 0.025) and muscle strength (Timed-Stands Test; P = 0.000) (Grippit; P = 0.003), but not in any other variables assessed.
Conclusion: A 1-year coaching program for healthy physical activity resulted in improved perceived health status and muscle strength, but the mechanisms remain unclear, as self-reported physical activity at healthy level did not change.