Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 38, Issue 9, pp 2483–2491 | Cite as

Evaluation of factors affecting the levels of physical activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional study

  • Chang-Hee Suh
  • Ju-Yang Jung
  • Hyunjin Oh
  • Sunjoo BooEmail author
Original Article


Relatively little is known about what motivates or prevents patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) from adopting physically active lifestyles. This study aimed to evaluate the levels of physical activity and to identify the factors affecting a physically active lifestyle among Korean patients with RA. In this cross-sectional study, data were collected from a rheumatology outpatient clinic of a university-affiliated hospital in South Korea. The levels of physical activity were self-reported using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Participants who engaged in more than 600 metabolic equivalent task-minutes/week of physical activity and moderate activity or walking at least three times per week were considered physically active in this study. Structured questionnaires were used to assess perceived barriers and self-efficacy for exercise. Of 345 patients with RA included in this study, about 22% of patients were classified as physically active. Factors associated with a physically active lifestyle were good physical function (odds ratio [OR] = 0.56; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.36–0.87) and high levels of exercise self-efficacy (OR = 1.36; 95% CI: 1.20–1.54). Common barriers identified were fatigue, interference with other responsibilities, and a lack of time. Participants showed the lowest self-efficacy for exercise when they had pain and were busy with other activities. The level of physical function and exercise self-efficacy were predictors of physical activity. Individualized physical activity programs tailored to personal abilities and barriers and increasing exercise self-efficacy are needed to facilitate engagement of physical activity in Korean patients with RA.

Key Points

Factors associated with a physically active lifestyle were good physical function and high levels of exercise self-efficacy.

The levels of exercise self-efficacy in Korean patients with RA are low compared to those in other populations.

Frequently encountered barriers in the subjects were being too tired, interference with other responsibilities, and lack of time.

Individualized physical activity programs tailored to personal abilities and barriers and increasing exercise self-efficacy are needed to facilitate engagement of physical activity in Korean patients with RA.


Physical activity Physical function Rheumatoid arthritis Self-efficacy 



We express our sincere gratitude to all participants. We also thank Yanghee Koo, Hyojung Kim, Hyunjeong Byeon, and Jieun Choi for their assistance and support with data collection.

Authors’ contributions

Conceptualization: CHS, JYJ, SB.

Data curation: CHS, JYJ, SB.

Formal analysis: SB.

Funding acquisition: SB.

Investigation: CHS, SB.

Project administration: SB.

Resources: CHS, SB.

Supervision: CHS, SB.

Writing of the original draft: CHS, HO, SB.

Writing and/or reviewing and editing: CHS, JYJ, HO, SB.


This work was supported by a grant from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Korea government (Ministry of Science and ICT & Future Planning) (no. 2017R1C1B1010892).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose, have full control of all primary data, and agree to allow the journal to review their data, if requested.

Ethical standards

The study protocol and consent form were reviewed and approved by the ethics committee of Ajou University Medical Center in compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki (AJIRB-SBR-SUR-17-122). All study participants provided written informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.


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Copyright information

© International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RheumatologyAjou University School of MedicineSuwonSouth Korea
  2. 2.College of NursingGachon UniversitySeongnamSouth Korea
  3. 3.Research Institute of Nursing ScienceAjou University College of NursingSuwonSouth Korea

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