Cardio-respiratory aerobic exercise is safe for patients with stable rheumatoid arthritis (RA), suggest researchers in France.
The team from the University of Grenoble Medical School in France found that RA patients who exercised regularly had improved function, less joint pain, and greater quality of life.
RA, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by swollen joints, pain, stiffness, fatigue, and general malaise affects up to 1 percent of the global population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) citing health-related quality of life (HRQL) studies found that RA patients were 40 percent more likely to report fair or poor general health and twice as likely to have a health-related activity limitation compared with those without arthritis.
The current study led by Athan Baillet, conducted an abstract search of relative medical journals for studies that researched RA patients and impact of aerobic exercise.
The team analyzed 14 studies and meta-analysis included 510 patients in the intervention group and 530 in the control group. Participants in these studies had a mean age of 44-68 years and their RA disease duration was 1-16 years.
Researchers compared HRQL, the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), joint count, and pain using a visual analog scale (VAS) among patients in the studies.
"Our results show that patients with stable RA would benefit from regular aerobic exercise. Cardio-respiratory conditioning appears safe and its effects, while small, help to reduce joint pain and improve function," said Dr. Baillet.
Researchers assessed the efficacy of exercise on RA symptoms using standardized mean differences (SMDs) which is the difference (between groups) of mean outcome variation from baseline/SD at baseline of aerobic exercises versus non-aerobic rehabilitation.
Meta analysis of the research showed that exercise improved the post-intervention quality of life, HAQ score and pain VAS.
"While past studies have indicated that RA patients are quite physically inactive, our study shows aerobic exercise to be a safe and beneficial intervention for this group. Further trials are needed to clearly determine the clinical impact of cardio-respiratory conditioning in the management of RA," said Dr. Baillet.
The findings will be published in the July print issue of Arthritis Care and Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.