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IRD IA – Improves quality of life

Evidence summary (Updated 2022)

Studies examining the impact of physical activity interventions on quality of life scores in those with rheumatoid arthritis have used a variety of methods, including the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale, Nottingham Health Profile and McMaster Toronto Arthritis Patient Preference Questionnaire. Pooled data has demonstrated that physical activity has a beneficial effect on quality of life, particularly aerobic exercise (1-3).
In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, multicomponent or single exercise physical activity has shown to have a small positive affect in improving both functional disability and global impact of the disease (4).
Tai Chi was also shown to be effective in improving functional disability and quality of life of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (5).
Further, more recently a robust systematic review of 12 randomised controlled trials found that when compared to a control group (treatment-as-usual or waiting list or no treatment), regular exercise therapy led to significant improvements in self-reported quality of life in inflammatory arthritis across a range of patient reported outcome measures (6).

Quality of evidence:

Grade A– High quality evidence in rheumatoid arthritis supported by a robust and recent systematic review

Strength of recommendation

Grade 1 – Strong Recommendation in rheumatoid arthritis

There is a strong evidence base that physical activity interventions improve quality of life in rheumatoid arthritis and should be recommended.


  1. Sveaas SH, Smedslund G, Hagen KB, Dagfinrud H. Effect of cardiorespiratory and strength exercises on disease activity in patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(14):1065-1072.
  2. Baillet A, Zeboulon N, Gossec L, et al. Efficacy of cardiorespiratory aerobic exercise in rheumatoid arthritis: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2010;62(7):984-992.
  3. Baillet A, Vaillant M, Guinot M, Juvin R, Gaudin P. Efficacy of resistance exercises in rheumatoid arthritis: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012;51(3):519-527.
  4. Santos EJF, Duarte C, Marques A, Cardoso D, Apóstolo J, da Silva JAP, Barbieri-Figueiredo M. Effectiveness of non-pharmacological and non-surgical interventions for rheumatoid arthritis: an umbrella review. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2019 Jul;17(7):1494-1531. doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-D-18-00020. PMID: 31169776.
  5. Björk M, Dragioti E, Alexandersson H, Esbensen BA, Boström C, Friden C, Hjalmarsson S, Hörnberg K, Kjeken I, Regardt M, Sundelin G. Inflammatory Arthritis and the Effect of Physical Activity on Quality of Life and Self‐reported Function: A Systematic Review and Meta‐analysis–The ENHANCE Study. Arthritis care & research. 2021 Oct 11.
  6. Imoto AM, Amorim FF, Palma H, Lombardi I, Salomon AL, Peccin MS, Silva HE, Franco ES, Göttems L, Santana LA. Evidence for the efficacy of Tai Chi for treating rheumatoid arthritis: an overview of systematic reviews. Sao Paulo Medical Journal. 2021 Mar 3;139:91-7.