Barriers and facilitators to physical activity in people with an inflammatory joint disease: a mixed methods study

Kirsty Bell*, Monserrat Conde, Gordon Hendry, Danny Rafferty, Martijn Steultjens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Physical activity has been shown to be of great benefit to people with an inflammatory joint disease (IJD), however people with an IJD have been shown to be very inactive compared to the general population. The aims of this study were to explore 1) whether the transition from a National Health Service (NHS)-run exercise programme into exercising in the community could be achieved successfully; and 2) the barriers and facilitators during the transition period.

This study adopted a complementary mixed-methods study design including a qualitative approach using focus groups and a prospective cohort study. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the cohort study data. All variables were assessed for normality of distribution using the Sharpiro-Wilk test. Paired t-tests or Wilcoxon tests were undertaken for two consecutive assessment timepoints; one-way repeated measures ANOVAs or Friedman’s tests for three consecutive assessment timepoints. Micro-interlocutor analysis was used to analyse the focus group data. Areas of congruence and incongruence were explored by confirming the statistical results against the qualitative results. The adapted ecological model of the determinants of physical activity was then used as a framework to describe the findings.

A successful transition was defined as still exercising in the community 6-months post discharge from the NHS-run Inflammatory Arthritis Exercise Programme. This was self-reported to be 90% of the cohort. An individual barrier to physical activity in people with an IJD was found to be the unpredictable nature of their condition. Other barriers and facilitators found were similar to those found in the general population such as recreation facilities, locations, transportation and cost. Other facilitators were similar to those found in people living with other chronic long-term conditions such as the importance of peer support.

90% of the cohort data were defined as a successful transition. People with an IJD have similar barriers and facilitators to exercise as the general population and those living with other chronic long-term conditions. A barrier which appears to be unique to this population group is that of the unpredictable nature of their condition which needs to be considered whenever tailoring any intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Article number897
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Early online date5 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Oct 2022


  • Exercise
  • Physical activity
  • Inflammatory joint disease
  • Barriers
  • Facilitators
  • Mixed methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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