University of Limerick
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‘I never thought exercise could help improve my sleep’: experiences of people with rheumatoid arthritis on the impact of an 8-week walking-based exercise intervention in improving their sleep

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posted on 2024-02-13, 09:31 authored by Sean McKenna, Louise Larkin, ALAN DONNELLYALAN DONNELLY, Bente Appel Esbensen, Wan Lin Ng, Aqeel Maqsood Anjum, Alexander Fraser, Norelee KennedyNorelee Kennedy

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of people with RA of participating in an exercise intervention to improve their sleep. Methods: Using a qualitative descriptive design, semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 12 people with RA who had completed an 8-week walking-based exercise intervention to improve their total sleep time, sleep quality and sleep disturbance. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Four themes were generated: positive impact of exercise on participants’ sleep (‘I really didn’t think any type of exercise would help me sleep better, if I’m honest’); positive experiences of the exercise intervention (‘I learnt so much regarding walking that I didn’t even think about’); clear mental health benefits (‘If you don’t sleep well then it will have a knock-on effect to your mental health’); and achieving empowerment and ownership when exercising (‘I feel empowered now and confident that I’m not doing harm to myself’). Conclusion: The findings demonstrated that participants had not expected exercise to improve their sleep. Although there is a growing consensus that exercise will benefit sleep and mitigate some disease symptoms, research is severely lacking in people with RA.



Rheumatology Advances in Practice 8(1), rkae008


Oxford University Press

Other Funding information

Irish Research Council (IRC) (GOIPG/2016/58)

Also affiliated with

  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

Sustainable development goals

  • (3) Good Health and Well-being

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  • Allied Health
  • Physical Education and Sports Science
  • School of Medicine

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