Arthritis & Rheumatism, Volume 63,
November 2011 Abstract Supplement

Abstracts of the American College of
Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals
Annual Scientific Meeting
Chicago, Illinois November 4-9, 2011.

Effect of Physical Exercise in Systemic Sclerosisa Pilot Study.

Bergegard1,  Jenny, Alexanderson2,  Helene

Karolinska University Hospital, Solna, Stockholm, Sweden
Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


A few studies have reported improved aerobic capacity following aerobic exercise in systemic sclerosis patients without lung involvement. No previous studies have examined the effect of intensive physical exercise for patients with systemic sclerosis and pulmonary impairment. The aim of the study was to examine the effect of an 8-week exercise program for patients with systemic sclerosis and 50–100 % in vital capacity.


A single subject experimental design with repeated systematic measures during a six week A-phase (baseline-period) and an eight week B-phase (intervention-period) was used. Three women and one man with median age 66 years and median disease duration of four years completed aerobic exercise on a stationary bike corresponding to 15 on Borg RPE (strenuous) and muscular endurance training of shoulder flexors and hip flexors / knee extensors three times a week for eight weeks. Physical capacity (six minute walk test), aerobic capacity (sub maximal treadmill test) and muscle endurance in shoulder- and hip flexion (Functional Index 2) were assessed every other week. Level of activity limitation (Health Assessment Questionnaire), perceived health (Short Form 36), Raynaud, Fatigue and Global Health during the recent week (Visual Analouge Scale) were assessed at weeks 0, 6, 14. A mean value and 2 standard deviations (2SD) of measure time points in the A-phase were calculated. A statistically significant difference was defined as two consecutive measure points in the B-phase above or below the 2SD. Measures producing ordinal data were analyzed visually for trends and slopes.


Three participants improved statistically significantly in muscular endurance and two participants improved significantly in aerobic capacity. There was a visual trend with three patients rating less fatigue after 8 weeks of exercise compared to measures in the A-phase. One patient rated between 83–91 mm on the VAS during the A-phase and dropped down to 47 mm after eight weeks of exercise, one rated 50 mm in the A-phase and dropped down to 22 mm, and one rated 41 mm and then dropping to 23 mm while one patient remained unchanged. All other variables remained unchanged.


This eight week exercise program was well tolerated with positive effects on aerobic capacity and muscular endurance. These preliminary results of an ongoing study need to be confirmed in a larger population (n>10).

To cite this abstract, please use the following information:
Bergegard, Jenny, Alexanderson, Helene; Effect of Physical Exercise in Systemic Sclerosisa Pilot Study. [abstract]. Arthritis Rheum 2011;63 Suppl 10 :1568

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