To explore physical activity (PA) in adolescents with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) compared with a healthy population and to examine associations between PA and disease-related factors.


Total energy expenditure (TEE), activity-related energy expenditure (AEE), PA level, and PA pattern were assessed with a 3-day activity diary. Aerobic capacity was assessed using a Symptom Limited Bicycle Ergometry test. Functional ability was assessed with the Childhood Health Assessment Questionnaire. Disease activity was assessed using Paediatric Rheumatology International Trials Organisation core set criteria. Overall well-being was measured using a visual analog scale, and time since diagnosis was assessed by retrospective study from patients' charts. We used a cross-sectional study design. Reference data were collected from healthy Dutch secondary school children.


Thirty patients and 106 controls were included (mean ± SD age 17.0 ± 0.6 and 16.7 ± 0.9 years, respectively). TEE, AEE, and PA level were significantly lower in the JIA group. The JIA group spent more time in bed and less time on moderate to vigorous PA. Only 23% of the JIA patients met public health recommendations to perform ≥1 hour daily moderate to vigorous PA compared with 66% in the reference group. Higher PA was associated with higher levels of well-being and maximal oxygen consumption.


Adolescents with JIA have low PA levels and are at risk of losing the benefits of PA. Low PA is not related to disease activity, and control over the disease does not restore previous PA levels. Interventions by pediatric rheumatologists are needed to increase PA levels in patients with JIA.