Participation in physical activity decreased more in people with rheumatoid arthritis than the general population during the COVID-19 lockdown: a cross-sectional study

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Rheumatol Int. 2021 Nov 30. doi: 10.1007/s00296-021-05054-4. Online ahead of print.


The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions have significantly reduced population-wide physical activity (PA) levels. However, the impact of the pandemic and relevant restrictions on PA participation, and any potential barriers to it, in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are not clear. Furthermore, we are unsure if any such PA changes have affected their body weight, mental wellbeing, and/or quality of life (QoL). Thus, the aim of this study was to examine the impact of the lockdown on PA participation in people with RA, versus people without RA. Participants (n = 128; RA = 27, non-RA = 101) completed a self-administered online survey, which included questions on PA, body weight, mental wellbeing and QoL. PA participation during lockdown was significantly lower among RA versus non-RA participants (p < 0.001). Additionally, a similar profile of results was found where more RA participants vs non-RA participants reported reduced habitual PA (59% vs 33%) and increased body weight (59% vs 35%). Mental wellbeing scores were similarly low in both groups during lockdown (RA: 20.8 ± 4.2; non-RA: 22.2 ± 3.4, p = 0.080). Matched group comparisons identified similar trends to full sample analyses. In the first months of the lockdown, more people with RA reported decreased PA participation and increased body weight than their non-RA counterparts. Access to exercise equipment and facilities appears to be the main cause for these results. Looking beyond COVID-19, specific PA promotion for people with RA will be required to prevent a pandemic of inactivity.

PMID:34846554 | DOI:10.1007/s00296-021-05054-4