A combination of text messages and individual counselling sessions to motivate patients with rheumatoid arthritis may lead to improved patient outcomes, scientists have found for the first time.
This type of behavioural intervention was effective at reducing daily sitting time by an average of more than two hours in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, and also reduced their cholesterol levels.
Due to their disease, patients with RA tend to be more sedentary than the general population, which can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.
Patients with RA already have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death, partly caused by the chronic inflammatory rheumatic disease itself, and partly by traditional risk factors, such as hyperlipidaemia.
Although exercise is known to have a positive effect on pain and physical functioning in patients with RA, pain often acts as a barrier against maintenance of a physically active lifestyle.
A more feasible approach for improving health and well-being in RA patients would therefore be to focus on reducing sedentary behaviour and increasing light intensity activity, rather than solely concentrating on increasing moderate and vigorous physical activity.
“We know that behavioural approaches are effective in reducing sedentary behaviour in healthy populations,” said Tanja Thomsen of the Copenhagen Centre for Arthritis Research, Centre for Rheumatology and Spine Diseases in Denmark.
“Our findings support the introduction of behavioural approaches as an effective way to improve the health of rheumatoid arthritis patients, which may also be applicable in other populations with chronic disease and limited mobility,” Thomsen added.
As many as 75 adult RA patients with a self-reported daily sitting time greater than five hours and Health Assessment Questionnaire score less than 2.5 underwent a 16-week individually tailored, behavioural intervention that included three individual motivational counselling sessions with a health professional and regular text messages aimed at improving motivation to reduce daily sitting time and replacing it with light intensity physical activity.
A control group of 75 healthy adult patients matched for other characteristics was encouraged to maintain their usual lifestyle. Daily sitting time was recorded using a wearable activity monitor.
After 16 weeks, there was a significant between-group difference in average daily sitting time in favour of the intervention group of 2.20 hours per day, with a mean decrease of 1.61 hours per day in the intervention group and an increase of 0.59 hours per day in controls).
Secondary outcomes that were also in favour of the intervention group included self-assessment scores of pain, fatigue, physical function and blood measurements of total cholesterol.