Promoting Engagement with Physical Activity–Rheumatoid Arthritis (PEPA-RA pilot): Intervention feasibility

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Summary

Physical activity (PA) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is lower than in the general population. PA can improve physical function in RA, decrease chronic inflammation and reduce pain, without adversely affecting disease activity. This study had aimed to explore patient’s views on approaches to delivering PA programmes and inform a programme to maximise functional ability through long-term engagement with PA. Qualitative data were collected via three focus groups which explored the views of people with RA of their PA support needs following diagnosis; experiences relating to PA; motivators and facilitators to support PA engagement and the suitability for people with RA of evidence based PA programmes designed for other long-term conditions. Four key themes emerged relating to PA programmes: (1) why people join and why they drop out; (2) venue and timing; (3) what people want to do and hear; and (4) who should deliver programmes and how. Patients with RA were interested in PA programmes 6 to 12 months after diagnosis, supporting safe exercise.  Programmes need expert physiotherapist input where promotion through trusted health professionals and ‘people like me’ could impact recruitment and retention. Key elements include proficient, safety-oriented exercise guidance, RA education, peer support, relaxation, coping strategies and self-set goals delivered through a group-based programme to support adherence.

Publications:

Withall, J.,Haase, A., Walsh, N. E., Young, A. & Cramp, F. (in press). Physical activity engagement in early rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative study to inform intervention development  (27 Jul 2015 accepted) Physiotherapy.

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