How Does Aerobic Exercise Effect Women with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Aerobic exercise increases hematologic indices in patients with RA.

In a new study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, investigators sought to determine the effects of moderate aerobic exercise on the hemoglobin (Hb), hematocrit (HCT), and red blood cell (RBC) mass of women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The study was conducted from September 2014 to December 2014, at the Specialized Clinic of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitations in Al-Zahra Hospital of Isfahan, Iran. Women aged 18 to 70 years with RA who did not have any malignancy and hematologic disorders, were included in the study.

Using a computer-based random digit generator, the participants were randomized into 2 study groups: the training group and the control group. In the training group, participants received aerobic therapy 3 times per week plus medical therapy for 8 weeks, whereas, the control group received only medication for the same time period.

The medication dosage was 7.5 mg per week of methotrexate and 5 mg per day of prednisolone. The training program lasted for 12 minutes during the first session, and increased gradually to 35 minutes during the 8-week study.

The participants’ levels of RBC mass, HCT, and Hb were measured both before and after intervention. The changes in the parameters were then compared between the 2 study groups.

Of 51 eligible screened patients, 36 fulfilled the study criteria and were randomized to the 2 study groups, which each contained 18 patients. During the study, 2 patients from the training group and 1 from the control group were excluded. The final number of patients included in the final analysis totaled 16 in the training group and 17 in the control group.

Baseline levels of RBC count, Hb, and HCT were comparable between the 2 study groups. The results of the training group showed that aerobic exercise results in an increased RBC mass, Hb, and HCT. However, the participants who received medical therapy alone did not experience any significant changes in these parameters.

After 8 weeks of intervention, the investigators found the RBC mass (P = 0.581), Hb (P = 0.882) and HCT (P = 0.471) were comparable between the 2 study groups.

Some limitations to the study was the limited sample size, which may have caused the study to be too underpowered to detect significant changes in some variables; inflammatory parameters, as well as dynamic ones, were not measured; and the patients were not matched regarding disease severity or the involved joints, which could affect study results.

“The aerobic exercise results in increased Hb, HCT, and RBC mass, yet the increase in RA patients was not significant when compared [with] that in controls,” the authors concluded. “Thus, increase in the HB, HCT, and RBC could not be attributable to aerobic exercise. Further investigations are required to shed light on the effects of aerobic exercise on hematologic indices of women with RA.”