OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of moderately intensive pool exercise therapy on patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS: Forty-six patients with chronic RA were randomly assigned to a treatment group and a control group. The treatment group (n = 20) exercised in a temperate pool twice a week for 12 weeks. The control group (n = 23) continued with their previous activities. Aerobic capacity, measured by means of a submaximum bicycle test, and the physical component of the SF-36 were chosen as the primary outcome measures. Two tests of muscle endurance were chosen as the secondary outcome measure. Additional functional tests and instruments were included. RESULTS: No significant differences between the groups were found for the primary outcome measures. Significant improvements in the following aspects of muscular function (P < 0.05) were found in the treatment group when their performance was compared with that of the control group: isometric shoulder endurance, grip force, dynamic endurance of lower extremities (chair test) and muscle function of lower extremities. Significant improvements were also found for vitality (SF-36) compared with the control group. The improvements in the training group were maintained for 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: Pool exercise therapy of moderate intensity significantly improved muscle endurance in the upper and lower extremities in patients with RA, while no impact on aerobic capacity was found. However, the study population was small and there is a need for further studies with larger populations.
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