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Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2011 Jan;63(1):79-93. doi: 10.1002/acr.20347.

Effects of community-deliverable exercise on pain and physical function in adults with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases: a meta-analysis.

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Meta-Analytic Research Group, School of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, West Virginia University, PO Box 9190, Morgantown, WV 26506-9190, USA.



To use the meta-analytic approach to determine the effects of community-deliverable exercise on pain and physical function in adults with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases (AORD).


Data sources consisted of 6 electronic databases, cross-referencing from retrieved studies and expert review. Study selection included 1) randomized controlled trials; 2) ≥ 1 exercise intervention group; 3) community-deliverable exercise interventions ≥ 4 weeks in duration; 4) control group; 5) adults ages ≥ 18 years with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, gout, or ankylosing spondylitis; 6) published and unpublished studies; 7) studies published in any language between January 1, 1980, and January 1, 2008; and 8) data available for pain and/or physical function. Data abstraction included dual coding by 2 of the authors. Standardized effect sizes (g) and random-effects models were used to pool pain and physical function outcomes. Data were analyzed according to per-protocol and intent-to-treat (ITT) results. The minimally clinically important difference (MCID) and number needed to treat (NNT) were also calculated.


Thirty-three studies representing 3,180 men and women (1,857 exercise, 1,323 control) with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia were included. Statistically significant and clinically important improvements were observed for pain (per-protocol g = -0.37 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) -0.53, -0.21], MCID -18%; ITT g = -0.20 [95% CI -0.33, -0.07], MCID -9%, NNT 9) and physical function (per-protocol g = 0.37 [95% CI 0.21, 0.52], MCID 15%; ITT g = 0.34 [95% CI 0.25, 0.43], MCID 10%, NNT 5).


Community-deliverable exercise improves pain and physical function in adults with the types of AORD included in the analysis. Dose-response as well as studies in those with other types of AORD is needed.

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