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Aerobic exercise is beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis
  1. Jennie Scarvell1,
  2. Mark R Elkins2,3
  1. 1Trauma and Orthopaedic Research Unit, Canberra Hospital, Woden, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Evidence-Based Physiotherapy, The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Associate Professor Jennie Scarvell, Trauma and Orthopaedic Research Unit, Canberra Hospital, PO Box 11, Woden, ACT 2606, Australia; jennie.scarvell{at}

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It is estimated that at least 1.16% of women and 0.44% of men in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis.1 It is a disabling condition that has been recognised as having cardiovascular systemic effects and secondary effects of immobilisation.2 National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the management of rheumatoid arthritis mention specialist physiotherapy to enhance general fitness, joint flexibility and muscle strength in order to improve function.3 But the NICE reference to ‘general fitness’ probably undervalues the importance of aerobic exercise in improving quality of life for people with rheumatoid arthritis.4


This systematic review was performed to determine the effects of aerobic exercise on pain, disease activity, functional ability and quality of life in people with rheumatoid arthritis. The review also examined possible adverse effects.

Searches and inclusion criteria

PubMed, the Cochrane Central Register of Trials and EMBASE were searched with search terms related to rheumatoid arthritis, exercise therapy, activities of daily living and physical education and training. The registry was searched for additional published and unpublished trials. Lists of abstracts from three rheumatology conferences and the reference lists of included articles were hand searched. A single reviewer applied the selection criteria and extracted the relevant data, including information about study …

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  • Competing interests None.