Several studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis are both less likely to exercise than the general population and also have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems than the general population. The increased cardiovascular risk could be due in part to the inflammation in the body, but is also compounded by lack of physical activity.
A recent study published in the May 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism compared energy expenditure between patients with RA and healthy controls. Low energy expenditure / a sedentary lifestyle is a risk for cardiovascular problems. The study evaluated a total of 241 people over a year to measure energy expenditure from walking, climbing stairs and exercise/sports. The study found that people with rheumatoid arthritis burned fewer calories per week than healthy people and that most of the difference came from less walking and lifestyle activities like household chores, not high-intensity sports and exercise routines.
The researchers promoted walking as a safe and low cost way to get more exercise since moderate intensity activities like walking also have health benefits, in addition to high intensity exercise. Also, rigorous or highly structured exercise programs are not widely favored by people with RA. In one prior study that the researchers discussed, 30% of RA patients had unfavorable attitudes toward exercise. In another, 73% of RA patients reported poor success in keeping up with a particular exercise regimen because of pain, time constraints and/or lack of interest. Plus, some physicians still do not encourage exercise for RA patients.
The researchers noted that the RA patients for this study had about the same level of overall energy expenditure as healthy patients. Only 50% of both meet national guidelines for physical activity. But only 32% of RA patients met national thresholds for walking possibly because of pain, habit, fear of exacerbating the disease or a mindset against exercise. Because of the marked risked for cardiovascular disease in rheuamtoid arthritis patients, the researchers recommended that physicians should work to promote sensible physical activities such as walking as part of patients’ overall plans of arthritis care.
Published On: July 02, 2007