Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that affects the joints; without proper treatment and management, RA leads to the destruction of joint function. The standard of care for RA includes medications such as biologic therapy and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. An often-overlooked area of disease management is the implementation of exercise programs for patients with RA. Exercise is known to decrease systemic inflammation, symptoms of depression, and combat fatigue – all common symptoms reported by patients with RA.
Standard of care for patients with RA does not currently include lifestyle management factors such as diet, exercise, and cessation of habits like smoking and alcohol use. Healthcare providers often do not discuss or provide education to patients regarding how their lifestyle habits could impact the overall management of their RA. According to Thomsen et al. (2017), replacing sedentary lifestyles with low-intensity activity can improve the overall functionality of patients with debilitating diseases (p. 1603). Education on reducing a sedentary lifestyle and implementing moderate exercise has shown improvement in symptom outcomes. Exercise programs are known to reduce pain and disability in patients with RA (Rongen-van Dartel et al. 2015, p. 1054). The recommended level of weekly physical activity set by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2018), is 150 minutes of moderate exercise – this recommendation holds even for patients with chronic disease or disability (p.9). The proposed implementation of this project will include recommending patients to exercise for 150 minutes every week and evaluate how this impacts overall pain and fatigue. Implementation of this plan will be free of cost to healthcare facilities, and the implementation of this change project will encourage patients with RA to increase their physical activity and improve their overall quality of life.
Date of publication
MSN Capstone Project
Nicholson, Lauren, "Physical Activity for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: Benchmark Study" (2020). MSN Capstone Projects. Paper 44.