Rheumatoid arthritis is a challenging disease that often limits a person’s mobility and can worsen health. New European research finds that a combination of text messages and individual counseling sessions help to motivate patients with RA to be more active.
Researchers discovered the behavioral intervention was effective at reducing daily sitting time by an average of more than two hours in RA patients, and also reduced their cholesterol levels.
Individuals with RA tend to be more sedentary than the general population, which can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.
In Denmark, 67 percent of patients with RA do not meet public health recommendations for daily moderate and vigorous physical activity, and similar proportions of physically inactive RA patients are found in Germany (68 percent) and the United Kingdom (67 percent).
RA is a serious disease as in additional to musculoskeletal and joint dysfunction, individuals have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death because of inflammatory factors and elevated blood lipids.
Although exercise is known to have a positive effect on pain and physical functioning in patients with RA, pain often acts as a barrier against maintenance of a physically active lifestyle.
Therefore, a more realistic approach for improving health and well-being in RA is to focus on reducing sedentary behavior and increasing light intensity activity.
“We know that behavioral approaches are effective in reducing sedentary behavior in healthy populations,” said Miss Tanja Thomsen of the Copenhagen Centre for Arthritis Research, Rigshospitalet, Denmark.
Our findings support the introduction of behavioral approaches as an effective way to improve the health of rheumatoid arthritis patients, which may also be applicable in other populations with chronic disease and limited mobility,” Miss Thomsen added.
In the study, 75 adult RA patients with a self-reported daily sitting time greater than five hours and low scores on a Health Assessment Questionnaire, underwent a 16-week individually tailored, behavioral intervention.
The intervention included three individual motivational counselling sessions with a health professional and regular text messages aimed at improving motivation to reduce daily sitting time and replacing it with light intensity physical activity.
A control group of 75 healthy adult patients matched for other characteristics was encouraged to maintain their usual lifestyle. Daily sitting time was recorded using a wearable activity monitor.
After 16 weeks, there was a significant between-group difference in average daily sitting time in favor of the intervention group. Positive secondary outcomes also associated with the intervention group included self-assessment scores of pain, fatigue, physical function, and blood measurements of total cholesterol.