Physical and psychological symptoms limit physical activity for people with arthritis. This study examined if self-efficacy mediated a relationship between symptom and physical activity (PA) frequency change.
This was a secondary analysis of older adults with arthritis and joint pain in a trial of a lifestyle PA program (n = 339). Measures were depressive symptoms, pain, fatigue, arthritis self-efficacy, PA self-efficacy, and PA frequency. A panel model was used to analyze relationships at baseline and changes at 20 weeks.
The mean age was 68.8 years. At baseline, depression and fatigue were associated with arthritis self-efficacy (β = –.34 and –.24) and, in turn, PA self-efficacy (β = .63); PA self-efficacy was associated with PA (β = .15). Pain and depression changes were associated with arthritis self-efficacy change (β = –.20 and –.21) and, in turn, PA self-efficacy (β = .32) change; PA self-efficacy change was associated with PA change (β = .36).
Change in symptom severity affected change in PA frequency. These relationships appeared to operate through self-efficacy. Over time, pain appeared to have a stronger relationship than fatigue with self-efficacy and PA. These findings support strategies to help people with arthritis strengthen their confidence for symptom coping and PA participation.