OBJECTIVE: To investigate the longitudinal relationship between disease activity and self-reported physical activity (PA) in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis during the first year of treatment with combination therapy.
METHODS: PA was measured with the Short Questionnaire to Assess Health-Enhancing Physical Activity at baseline, 13 weeks, 26 weeks, and 52 weeks after start of treatment in the context of the Combinatietherapie Bij Reumatoïde Artritis-Light trial. The reported PA classified patients as meeting or not meeting the World Health Organization (WHO) PA guideline (cutoff: 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity per week). Other measurements included the Disease Activity Score (DAS). Since both treatment arms showed equal treatment effect, these were analyzed as 1 group with simple before-after analyses and generalized estimating equations (GEE).
RESULTS: In these analyses, 140 patients (86% of the trial population, 66% women, mean age 52 years) with complete data were included. At entry, 69% of the patients met the WHO PA guideline, increasing to 90% at week 13, and remaining stable at 89% after 1 year (P < 0.001). Mean DAS improved from 4.0 to 1.8 during the first year of treatment (P < 0.001). In GEE analyses, DAS decreases were significantly associated with PA increases (P = 0.008). Patients with clinically relevant responses (expressed as DAS remission, European League Against Rheumatism good response or American College of Rheumatology criteria for 70% improvement response) showed higher PA levels compared to nonresponders, regardless of the definition of response, for both the WHO and Dutch PA guideline.
CONCLUSION: Early rheumatoid arthritis patients using combination therapy improved both disease activity and PA, a beneficial effect persisting for at least 1 year.