Elderly rheumatoid arthritis patients on steroid treatment tolerate physical training without an increase in disease activity

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1994 Nov;75(11):1189-95. doi: 10.1016/0003-9993(94)90003-5.


The effects of physical training on elderly, fragile patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who are on low-dose steroids were investigated. The controlled study included 24 patients who had been treated with low-dose steroids for 2 years. Each patient was assigned either to a treatment group receiving training or to an untrained control group. The training took place over a 3-month period and was based on a protocol using progressive interval training consisting of bicycle exercises, heel lifts, and step-climbing. The exercises were performed twice weekly for 45 minutes. Comparison of the two groups showed that disease activity did not increase in the trained group and that fewer, but not significantly fewer, swollen joints were observed in this group (p = 0.06). No significant changes were noticed in erythrocyte sedimentation rate, tender joints, or morning stiffness. The work capacity of the trained patients were doubled and the numbers of repetitions increased 76%. Individually adapted exercise programs can therefore be recommended for elderly rheumatoid arthritis patients on steroid treatment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / rehabilitation*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal