Rheumatoid arthritis: greater physical activity linked to fewer CVD risk factors

  • Hörnberg K & al.
  • Scand J Rheumatol
  • 19 nov. 2019

  • de Miriam Davis, PhD
  • Clinical Essentials
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  • In patients with early and long-standing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), greater physical activity is associated with fewer cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.

Why this matters

  • RA is associated with excess risk for CVD partly because of traditional risk factors and partly because of systemic inflammation.
  • Insufficient physical activity in RA contributes to CVD morbidity.

Study design

  • Cross-sectional cohort of 121 patients with early (n=84) and long-standing (n=37) RA.
  • Physical activity was assessed by a combined accelerometer and heart rate monitor.
  • Functional ability was assessed by the Health Assessment Questionnaire.
  • Risk factors for CVD include blood lipid panel, sleeping heart rate, and body fat.
  • Funding: Swedish Rheumatism Association; others.

Key results

  • 37% with early and 43% with long-standing RA were not physically active according to the WHO's recommended levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • Higher total physical activity was associated with the following factors, among others, according to multivariate regression adjusted for age, sex, disease duration, and activity monitor wear time:
    • Lower body fat (P=.000).
    • Higher functional ability (P=.001).
    • Better systolic blood pressure (P=.006).
    • Better diastolic blood pressure (P=.025).
  • Greater time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with, according to multiple linear regression:
    • Lower high-density lipoprotein (P=.011).
    • Lower sleeping heart rate (P=.035).


  • Cross-sectional, observational design.
  • Small sample size.