medwireNews: Preliminary findings suggest that a walking-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program is associated with reduced disease activity and improved cardiorespiratory fitness among older patients with stable rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
“People with RA are often severely physically inactive owing to issues with pain and fatigue; inactivity leads to poor muscle function, low cardiorespiratory fitness, and worsened disability,” say David Bartlett (Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA) and study co-authors.
In the pilot study, 12 physically inactive RA patients aged an average of 64 years took part in the HIIT program, which involved three half-hour sessions of supervised treadmill walking per week for a total of 10 weeks. High-intensity intervals lasted for 60–90 seconds, and were alternated with active recovery intervals of a similar duration.
Despite “minimal” changes in body composition, participants experienced a significant reduction in disease activity over the study period. Average Disease Activity Score at 28 joints based on erythrocyte sedimentation rate (DAS28-ESR) improved from 3.1 points at baseline to 2.3 points after the HIIT intervention, while average DAS28 scores based on C-reactive protein (DAS28-CRP) improved from 3.1 to 2.4 points.
The researchers also observed significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness with the HIIT program; maximal oxygen uptake increased from 1.75 L/min at baseline to 1.89 L/min postintervention.
Bartlett and colleagues note that the observed improvements in disease activity and aerobic capacity were accompanied by improvements in innate immune function. For example, neutrophil migration, bacterial phagocytosis, and production of reactive oxygen species all significantly improved after the intervention, they say.
The researchers add that the exercise program was well tolerated, and participants did not experience any significant adverse events.
“Our data suggest that HIIT walking could be an efficient, tolerable, and highly effective intervention to augment disease activity and improve overall health in patients with RA,” write the authors in Arthritis Research & Therapy.
They acknowledge, however, that “[w]ithout a sufficient control group, it is unclear exactly how much HIIT walking contributed to these changes.”
And the researchers conclude: “Future studies should address a broader RA population and determine whether this program is feasible and can be transferred to a community- or home-based setting.”
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