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Clin Rheumatol. 2015 Mar;34(3):429-39. doi: 10.1007/s10067-014-2723-y. Epub 2014 Jun 20.

"A gift from heaven" or "This was not for me". A mixed methods approach to describe experiences of participation in an outsourced physical activity program for persons with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden,


Most persons with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) do not perform health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA). Evaluations of innovative HEPA programs need to be complemented with descriptive and qualitative data from the users. The aim of this mixed methods study was to explore and describe how a subgroup of the RA population perceives participation during the first year of an outsourced 2-year HEPA program. Data were collected by a study-specific postal survey to 220 program participants (response rate 87%, nā€‰=ā€‰191) and by interviews with a purposefully selected subsample of 35, including completers and dropouts. The survey data were analyzed by descriptive statistics and the interviews by qualitative content analysis.The survey demonstrated increased self-reported physical activity in 165 participants (86%). After the first year of the program, participants reported having performed "regular" or "periodical" circuit training (78%) and physical activity in daily life (92%). The most valued program components were circuit training and physical activity in daily life, both rated median 5/5. Coach support, prompts by text messages, and expert lectures were rated median 4/5. Five categories emerged from the interviews describing expectations, facilitators, gains, maintenance, and obstacles/suggestions for improvement of the program. The results demonstrate that HEPA outside health care is highly appreciated by a subgroup of the RA population. Professional coaching and prompts by text messages seem to be particularly useful facilitators. Individual preferences emphasize the need to tailor settings, exercise formats, and behavioral support for HEPA even in a narrow, self-selected group with RA.

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