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Information and Resources on Arthritis for Health Care Professionals

The resources in this section focus on the common forms of arthritis – osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Fewer than 13% of adults with knee OA meet current physical activity (PA) guidelines. Similarly, only 14% of people living with RA meet PA guidelines. Individuals who had joint replacement surgery for hip or knee OA are less active than their age-matched peers. Furthermore, individuals with RA spend, on average, more than 9 waking hours each day sedentary (sitting, watching TV).

People with RA are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and this risk increases further with inactivity. Meanwhile, hip or knee OA that results in walking disability is also associated with CVD and increased risk of all-cause mortality.

Randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews consistently show that PA and more structured exercise are safe, important for preserving joint health and can have numerous benefits including:

  • Reduced joint pain and disease activity
  • Improved range of motion and flexibility
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Better day to day function
  • Improved sleep, less fatigue
  • Reduced anxiety and depression

Physical Activity and Arthritis

As a health care professional, your recommendations for clients to be more active are associated with better adherence to physical activity guidelines among adults with arthritis.

Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate to vigorous-intensity PA per week and resistance exercise twice per week. Additionally, it is important to encourage light-intensity PA while limiting sedentary time during waking hours to reduce long-term risk of CVD risk in RA, independent of engaging in moderate to vigorous-intensity PA.

Useful Resources

Inflammatory Rheumatic Disease (Moving Medicine, United Kingdom)
This website provides brief step-by-step guides to help you have better quality conversations about physical activity with your clients and links to client educational materials.

Musculoskeletal Health (Motivate 2 Move, United Kingdom)
This webpage looks at benefits and considerations for physical activity in individuals with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia with links to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence practice guidelines and fact sheets.

The health benefits of physical activity: osteoarthritis and low back pain (BMJ Learning, United Kingdom)
This 30-minute eLearning module addresses the importance and effectiveness of physical exercise in the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis and low back pain. (e-learning module)

Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease - Osteoarthritis (Swedish National Institute of Public Health and Professional Associations for Physical Activity, Sweden)
This online textbook provides comprehensive evidence-based information about physical activity for clients with osteoarthritis.

Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease - Rheumatoid Arthritis (Swedish National Institute of Public Health and Professional Associations for Physical Activity, Sweden)
This online textbook provides comprehensive evidence-based information about physical activity for clients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Physical Activity Implementation Guide-Health Care (Osteoarthritis Action Alliance,USA)
This website provides information on physical activity in adults with osteoarthritis, unique barriers for individuals with arthritis and specific actions health professionals can undertake as well as links to evidence-based programs.

Click here for resources designed for clients.

Further Reading

Last updated: November 2021