Purpose of review
The current review summarizes the existing knowledge about exercise therapy in the management of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) along with activity level, functional abilities and exercise capacity of this population.
Current studies show that children with JIA are considerably less active than their peers. They have significantly impaired aerobic and anaerobic exercise capacity. The inactivity, decreased exercise capacity and disease course lead to deconditioning and disability. Adolescent girls with polyarticular rheumatoid factor-positive subtype appear to be most vulnerable to disability. Recent trials suggest that structured aerobic training or low-intensity programs do not exacerbate arthritis and can lead to improved physical fitness, quality of life and functional abilities in children and adolescents with JIA.
Inactivity in pediatric patients with JIA leads to deconditioning and disability and decreased bone mass, reduced quality of life and possibly increased mortality in adulthood. Although advances in pharmacology have improved the lives of children with JIA, management should also include a moderate, consistent exercise program or more active lifestyle. Physical activity may improve exercise capacity, decrease disability in adulthood, improve quality of life and, in some patients, decrease disease parameters. Further studies are needed to assess practicality of various programs and long-term effects of exercise in children and adolescents with JIA.