Wellbeing and Activity Behaviours in RA Survey

17 October 2023

Thank you to all NRAS members who have completed the online survey from NRAS and the University of Birmingham during the COVID-19 lockdown in April this year. In total, we received more than 600 responses to the survey.

The study showed that people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) who were able to do physical activity were less likely to feel fatigued or depressed and had greater levels of vitality during the first lock down. When we specifically looked at people who were self-isolating (i.e., shielding) during COVID-19, being physically active was particularly important to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. These benefits of physical activity were already seen when people were doing light intensity physical activity (such as doing household chores) or walking, but also when doing more intensive exercise. In other words, doing some light physical activity already has many benefits for wellbeing during lockdown, and could help with coping with the worries related to COVID-19.

Key findings of the survey:

  • People who participated in more light intensity physical activities (such as cooking or laundry) and spent more time walking, felt less fatigued and depressed and had greater vitality.
  • People who did more exercise (such as tennis or cycling) had lower levels of fatigue and had fewer depressive symptoms.
  • People who spent greater amounts of time sitting felt more fatigued.
  • People with greater disability had poorer mental health and psychological wellbeing. And physical activity was shown to be helpful for reducing depressive symptoms, fatigue, and improving vitality in people of all levels of disability.
  • In people who were self-isolating, walking was related to lower physical fatigue.

In sum, our findings highlight the importance of doing any physical activity for mental health and psychological wellbeing during a COVID-19 lockdown in people with RA. Even light intensity physical activity (such as doing household chores) and walking can already have benefits for mental health and wellbeing and can counteract the negative impact of worries related to COVID-19. Therefore, during a pandemic lockdown, we recommend, if you can, go out and be active for 20-30 minutes a day, even if it’s just for a gentle walk, and this could benefit your psychological health and wellbeing. If you can’t do this, finding ways to be active around the home can be just as helpful.

Information about physical activity for people with RA can be found here: