Being physically active through chronic illness: life experiences of people with arthritis
journal contributionposted on 04.04.2019, 13:13 by Emily Hunt, Anthony PapathomasAnthony Papathomas
Despite the therapeutic potential of exercise for people with arthritis, they are considerably less active than the general population. To explain this phenomenon, research rarely moves beyond descriptive accounts of exercise barriers and facilitators. Although a useful start point, such studies list decontextualized factors without situating these within the wider experience of living with chronic illness. As such, we know little about what physical activity means to people with arthritis and the personal circumstances that support exercise participation or otherwise. To address this gap, we used life-story interviews to explore participants’ broad experiences of exercise and arthritis. Interviews with 21 people (6 male, 15 female) aged between 24 and 79 years (M=57.7 years) and diagnosed with arthritis for between 6 months and 35 years (M=12.7 years) yielded over 35 hours of data, with each interview lasting between 55 – 160 minutes. Through an inductive thematic analysis of the data, we constructed 3 themes; making sense of arthritis, adapting and enjoying exercise, and exercise as medicine. Participants constructed both illness and exercise differently and this held consequences for their exercise experience. Barriers to exercise became more surmountable once participants had achieved a satisfactory understanding of arthritis and its consequences. Physical activity promotion in clinical populations might benefit from supporting adaptation to illness more generally as opposed to an exclusive exercise focus.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences