Promoting physical activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: rheumatologists' and health professionals' practice and educational needs

Clin Rheumatol. 2011 Dec;30(12):1603-9. doi: 10.1007/s10067-011-1846-7. Epub 2011 Sep 13.


Despite the proven health benefits, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are found to be less physically active than their healthy peers. The aim of this study was to examine to what extent and how physical activity, defined as any bodily movement resulting in energy expenditure, is currently promoted by health care providers in patients with RA and how they perceive their competencies and educational needs. For this cross-sectional study, Dutch rheumatologists, rheumatology clinical nurse specialists, and expert physical therapists were sent a postal survey including four domains: attitudes towards physical activity in RA, advices given to patients with RA, and perceived competencies and educational needs. A total of 126 rheumatologists (50%), 132 clinical nurse specialists (56%), and 112 physical therapists (53%) returned the questionnaire. More than 90% agreed that physical activity is an important health goal for RA patients and regularly advised their patients to engage in physical activity. Public health recommendations for moderate-intensity physical activity were found attainable in RA patients by 66%, 74%, and 65% and were by used by 19%, 41%, and 49% of them, respectively. On average, respondents rated their competency to promote physical activity as low to medium, and 54%, 85%, and 72% of the respondents expressed a need for additional education regarding this topic. Rheumatologists, nurses, and physical therapists considered regular physical activity to be an important health goal for RA patients. The majority of them commonly gave advice on physical activity but felt not sufficiently competent and indicated a need for additional education.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / rehabilitation*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires