Objectives: Exercise is reported to improve function for people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) but it is not clear if this effect is causal or if patients with milder disease find it easier to exercise. This study examines the effect of exercise and motivation to exercise on function, while controlling for disease severity.
Methods: Participants who were members of an existing AS cohort were asked about physical activity, motivation to exercise, function, and disease severity. Path analysis on STATA was used to examine the correlation between factors associated with function at time of exercise and with function after 3 months of follow-up.
Results: The response rate to the questionnaire was 88% (326/371). Improvement in function was greatest for people with higher physical activity levels and those who were more motivated to exercise-this was especially the case for patients with the most severe disease activity. The effect of motivation to exercise not only had a direct effect on function, but also an indirect effect of improving activity levels thereby improving both current and future function. People with high intrinsic motivation (driven by pleasure) had the greatest benefit to activity and function.
Conclusions: Exercise does improve function, especially for those with severe disease. In addition, motivation alone improves function as much as exercising itself. Therefore, interventions targeting motivation to exercise would have as much effect on improving function as interventions offering exercise opportunities. In addition, any intervention that both improves motivation and increases opportunities to exercise would have a 2-fold influence on function.
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