Perceptions and measurements of physical activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Lupus. 2011 Mar;20(3):231-42. doi: 10.1177/0961203310383737. Epub 2010 Dec 23.


Promoting physical activity should be a priority for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) because a sedentary lifestyle compounds patients' already disproportionately high risk for cardiovascular events and other adverse health outcomes. The objectives of this pilot study were to assess physical activity in 50 patients with SLE and to compare activity levels with clinical and psychosocial variables, such as fatigue, depressive symptoms, and social support and stress. Patients were asked open-ended questions about physical activity, and responses were coded according to Grounded Theory. Patients then completed the Paffenbarger Physical Activity and Exercise Index, a survey of lifestyle energy expenditure reported in kilocalories/week, performed a 2-minute walk test according to a standard protocol, and completed questionnaires measuring fatigue, depressive symptoms and social support and stress. Most patients (92%) were women, had a mean age of 45 years, and did not have extensive SLE. In response to open-ended questions, patients reported they avoided physical activity because they did not want to exacerbate SLE in the short term. However, if they could overcome initial hurdles, 46 patients (92%) thought physical activity ultimately would improve SLE symptoms. Walking was the preferred activity and 45 (90%) thought they could walk more. According to the Paffenbarger Index, mean energy expenditure was 1466 ± 1366 kilocalories/week and mean time spent in moderate-intensity activity was 132 ± 222 min/week. In total, 18 patients (36%) and 14 patients (28%) met physical activity goals for these values, respectively. Mean distance walked during the 2-minute test was 149 ± 28 m, equivalent to two blocks, which is similar to reports for stable patients with other chronic diseases. Patients with more social stress and more fatigue reported less physical activity. We conclude that the proportion of patients meeting physical activity goals was low; however, patients performed well on a standard walking test. Most patients believed physical activity provided long-term benefits for SLE and that they could be more physically active.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise Test
  • Fatigue
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / physiopathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Perception*
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Walking