Physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review

J Phys Act Health. 2012 Sep;9(7):1036-48. doi: 10.1123/jpah.9.7.1036.


Background: Physical activity is associated with improved health outcomes in many populations. It is assumed that physical activity levels in the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) population may be reduced as a result of symptoms of the disease. The objective of this review is to establish the current evidence base for levels of physical activity in the RA population.

Methods: A systematic review was performed of 7 databases (Emabase, MEDLINE, AMED, Biomedical Reference Collection Expanded, CINAHL, Nursing and Allied Health Collection, and SportsDiscus) up to February 2011 to examine the evidence in the area.

Results: One hundred and thirty-six studies were identified through electronic searching. One hundred and six were excluded based on title and/or abstract analysis and a further 14 were excluded based on full text analysis. Sixteen studies meeting the criteria were deemed suitable for inclusion. The results of the included studies indicate that the level of physical activity may be lower among individuals with RA when compared with healthy controls or normative data.

Conclusions: There are a number of methodological considerations at play within the studies reviewed which prohibits definitive conclusion on the physical activity levels of this population group. Given the known health benefits of physical activity, further research in this area appears indicated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*