BACKGROUND: Over the last few years, the types of exercises prescribed for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have changed. There is also increasing knowledge on the physical status and physical activity levels of these patients. This article aims to give an overview of the physical status, physical activity levels and appropriate exercise prescription for patients with RA.
METHOD: A literature search was conducted of scientific journals and text, including Medline and PubMed (1980-2012). Literature was selected for its in-depth data and well researched information. Key search terms included "RA and exercise therapy", as well as "physical activity levels and physical status of patients with RA".
RESULTS: The literature indicated that RA has a major impact on physical and psychological health. Over the past decade, there has been growing evidence of the health benefits of physical activity for patients with RA. Despite this evidence, patients with RA are less physically active than the general population. The types of exercises prescribed for patients with RA have changed from the traditionally prescribed isometric and range-of-motion exercises. However, proper choice and appropriate utilisation of exercise is essential in order to provide a therapeutic effect.
CONCLUSION: Although pharmacological interventions have largely improved RA management, exercise therapy remains an important part of treatment. Despite the known benefits of physical activity and exercise, patients with RA are less physically active than the general population.