Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

Physical activity 'can mitigate mood impact of fatigue in arthritis patients'

Published by Arthritis Research UK on 27 August 2015

Arthritis patients who experience bouts of low mood when they are feeling fatigued can combat this through increased physical activity. 

This is according to a new study from the University of Otago in New Zealand, which was designed to assess whether daily physical activity could have an impact on the relationship between daily fatigue and positive or negative mood in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis

A total of 142 patients - 70 with rheumatoid arthritis and 72 with osteoarthritis - completed daily diaries during four fixed time windows per day for a week. Each diary assessed fatigue, pain, and positive and negative mood trends, while participants also wore pedometers throughout the day, recording results in the evenings. 

According to results published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research, physical activity was shown to help mitigate the same-day relationship between daily fatigue and positive mood for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis participants. 

On days when patients were feeling especially fatigued, significant low mood trends were noted, but this impact was lessened on days when participants were more physically active. 

The researchers said: "Being more physically active on high-fatigue days buffered the negative effect of fatigue on positive mood among adults with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These findings have implications for understanding the daily variations in fatigue and inform potential clinical interventions." 

A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK welcomed the findings of the new study, while acknowledging that treating fatigue remains a challenge for rheumatologists and GPs. 

"Fatigue is extreme physical and mental tiredness, and affects most people with arthritis at some point," she said. 

"We suggest using the four Ps - problem solving, planning, prioritising and pacing - to monitor what activities increase fatigue so you can save some energy for the things you enjoy. Gradually increasing the amount of physical activity or exercise you do will increase your general wellbeing, strength and energy levels. 

"However, more needs to be done to tackle fatigue, and our new five-year strategic focus on the quality of life for people with arthritis is highlighting this area as a priority among our research funding activities. We plan to support a range of fatigue-related questions in order to see progress in this important area." 

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Posted on Thursday 3rd September 2015