Effects of a Group-Based Exercise and Educational Program on Physical Performance and Disease Self-Management in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Study [RESEARCH REPORTS]

BackgroundEvidence supports the use of educational and physical training programs for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). ObjectiveThe purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a group-based exercise and educational program on the physical performance and disease self-management of people with RA. DesignThis was a randomized controlled trial. SettingThe study was conducted at a rehabilitation center in the Netherlands. ParticipantsThirty-four people diagnosed with RA participated in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to either an intervention group (n=19) or a waiting list control group (n=15). InterventionThe intervention in this study was an 8-week, multidisciplinary, group therapy program for people with RA, consisting of physical exercise designed to increase aerobic capacity and muscle strength (force-generating capacity) together with an educational program to improve health status and self-efficacy for disease-self-management. MeasurementsThe main outcome measures were maximum oxygen uptake ([V]O_SCPLOWOC_SCPLOW2max), muscle strength of the elbow and knee flexors and extensors, health status, and perceived self-efficacy. All data were recorded before intervention in week 1, after intervention in week 9, and at follow-up in week 22. ResultsThe intervention group showed significant improvement (12.1%) in [V]O_SCPLOWOC_SCPLOW2max at week 9 compared with the control group (-1.7%). Although significant within-group changes were found over time for muscle strength of the upper and lower extremities and health status that favored the intervention group, no between-group changes were found regarding these outcomes. LimitationsAn important limitation was the small number of participants included in our study, which may have resulted in a lack of power. ConclusionsThe present group-based exercise and educational program for people with RA had a beneficial effect on aerobic capacity but not on muscle strength, health status, or self-efficacy.

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