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Impact of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games on Physical Activity of Rheumatology Patients

Müther, Michael; Williamson, Marie MBChB; Williamson, Lyn FRCP, BMBCh, MA

JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology: October 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 7 - p 376–378
doi: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000000173
Medical Student Report

Background Lack of physical activity in the general population is one of the biggest health challenges we face. For rheumatology patients, and other patients with chronic disease, exercise is an essential part of disease management. However, very few patients exercise effectively.

One of the aspirations of the London 2012 Olympic/Paralympic Games was to catalyze people into long-term physical activity.

Methods We surveyed our rheumatology patients at 3 high-profile times in the year after the Olympics.

Results Two hundred fifty-three patients were enrolled within the study; the largest diagnosis subgroup being rheumatoid arthritis (36%). Ninety-five percent of our patients regard exercise as beneficial; 36% still think it does harm. Most common barriers to exercise were pain (53%), tiredness (44%), and lack of time (36%). Forty-five percent exercise daily, mostly just walking. Twnety-seven patients (16%) were motivated by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games toward physical activity. They were mostly motivated by athletics’ individual stories (67%), taking part in a big sports festival (11%) and demonstration of top sporting levels (4%). Eighteen patients in total (7%) increased their amount of exercise in response to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. There was no difference between patient diagnostic groups.

Conclusions Only a small minority of patients increased their amount of exercise in response to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The message about the importance of physical exercise to health needs to be clear, unambiguous, and consistent, because a significant number of patients still think that physical activity does harm. Big sporting events such as the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games can be used as an opportunity to remind patients that physical activity does good and is not harmful. Athletes’ individual stories could be used in future as part of a strategy to encourage exercise for all patients.

From the Rheumatology Department, Great Western Hospital, Swindon, United Kingdom.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Michael Müther, Rheumatology Department, Great Western Hospital, Marlborough Road, Swindon, SN3 6BB, United Kingdom. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.