Aerobic and Muscle Strength Exercises Beneficial for Patients with RA

October 13, 2009

Researchers have concluded that evidence from their study showed “aerobic capacity training combined with muscle strength training is recommended as routine practice in patients with RA.”

There have been a number of previously conducted studies evaluating the effect exercise programs have on patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Researchers from the Netherlands recently had the results from their study published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, where they concluded that evidence showed “aerobic capacity training combined with muscle strength training is recommended as routine practice in patients with RA.” This conclusion established the findings from previous studies which showed how “dynamic exercise programs are safe and have positive effects on aerobic capacity and muscle strength.”

The eight land- or water-based exercise trials featured 575 patients and were found to have no harmful side effects in the participants. However, the researchers were quick to note that most studies are not conducted long enough to determine if exercise causes joint damage.

Of the eight studies, there were four different dynamic exercise programs found:

1) Short-term, land-based aerobic capacity training, which results show moderate evidence for a positive effect on aerobic capacity (pooled effect size 0.99 (95% CI 0.29 to 1.68).

2) Short-term, land-based aerobic capacity and muscle strength training, which results show moderate evidence for a positive effect on aerobic capacity and muscle strength (pooled effect size 0.47 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.93).

3) Short-term, water-based aerobic capacity training, which results show limited evidence for a positive effect on functional ability and aerobic capacity.

4) Long-term, land-based aerobic capacity and muscle strength training, which results show moderate evidence for a positive effect on aerobic capacity and muscle strength. With respect to safety, no deleterious effects were found in any of the included studies.

Lead researcher Emalie Hurkmans of the Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, Netherlands, also said that there were “other types of exercise that weren't included in our review, such as flexibility and stability training, and it would be interesting to find out whether these also have positive effects."