• Exercise prescriptions;
  • Patient-provider communication;
  • Arthritis



To describe how patients and their rheumatologists discuss exercise, and to identify predictors of exercise prescriptions.


Twenty-five rheumatologists and 132 patients with rheumatoid arthritis completed questionnaires and were audiotaped during a subsequent clinic visit. Chi-square and t-tests assessed associations between variables. Principal components analysis identified patterns of talk about exercise. Multivariate logistic regression identified predictors of an exercise prescription.


Seventy of the 132 patients (53%) discussed exercise. Of these, 18 (26%) received an exercise prescription. Principal components analysis identified 3 patterns of talk about exercise. Aerobic exercise discussions contained more information about drawbacks, side effects, pain, and bargaining than did discussions about general exercises, and referral to physical therapy for exercise. Significant predictors of a prescription included rheumatologist-initiated discussion about exercise (odds ratio [OR] 4.6; P = 0.03); talk about exercise in improving function, exercise instructions, opinions about the usefulness of exercise (OR 3.1; P = 0.01); and discussions about non-exercise treatments (OR 1.6; P = 0.01).


Exercise and referral to physical therapy for exercise are discussed differently and are 4 times more likely to occur when the rheumatologist initiates the discussion. These discussions strongly impact on the likelihood a patient receives an exercise prescription.