Rheumatic Disease and Activity


A study of rheumatic disease and activity surveyed data on more than 3,300 older adults with rheumatoid arthritis,  spondyloarthritis, osteoarthritis, and lupus. They found that those who exercised regularly felt better, with less pain and fatigue, better sleep, and less depression. The researchers concluded that the standard advice to get 150 minutes a week of cardio applies to people with rheumatic disease as well. 

The chicken or the egg?

The results were clear: people who exercised regularly were better off than those who did not. Just over half of the participants included moderate exercise in their daily routines. The median exercise time was seven days a month for 30 minutes. That’s less than twice a week. Only 14% of the subjects were involved in vigorous exercise. 

The subjects who reported low levels of activity experienced more pain, had worse scores on the Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index, and were more likely to be depressed. They also had worse scores on the PROMIS29 questionnaire on questions about pain, sleep, and fatigue.

The researchers also found that obese patients were less likely to be active — they were actually twice as likely to be in the “low activity” group. 

For all of these results, however, they had to wonder whether the chicken or the egg came first. Did the less-active patients get less exercise because they were in more pain and experienced greater fatigue, or did they experience greater pain and fatigue because they were less active? Were obese patients more sedentary because they were obese, or did they become obese because they were less sedentary? 

The researchers could not determine whether the inactivity caused the poor quality of life or the poor quality of life caused the inactivity. It may well have been a vicious circle. 

Rheumatic disease and activity

Better outcomes from rheumatic disease and activity are strongly correlated, even if the cause is unclear. The researchers recommend that rheumatologists help their patients figure out ways to include regular activity in their daily lives. They also pointed out that most of the more active subjects were only moderately active — but they still saw positive results. 

If you live with rheumatic disease, ask your rheumatologist for strategies to increase activity and aim for 150 minutes a week…but know that a little activity can also be helpful. 

Image courtesy of Adobe