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Impaired cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular fitness in children and adolescents with juvenile idiopathic arthritis: a cross-sectional case-control study in the era of biologic drug therapies.

BACKGROUND: In recent years, biologic drug therapies have altered the course of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) possibly also improving the patients' physical fitness. However, studies measuring both cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness in children with JIA are sparse and have failed to show consistent results. Our aim was to assess both cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular fitness and contributing factors in children and adolescents with JIA in the era of biologic drug therapies.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study consisted of 73 JIA patients (25 boys, 48 girls) aged 6.8- 17.5 years and 73 healthy age- and sex-matched controls, investigated in 2017-2019. Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed by maximal ergospirometry and neuromuscular fitness by speed, agility, balance, and muscle strength tests.

RESULTS: Means (± SD) of maximal workload (Wmax/kg ) and peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak/kg, ) were lower in JIA patients than in controls (Wmax/kg : 2.80 ± 0.54 vs. 3.14 ± 0.50 Watts, p < 0.01; VO2peak/kg : 38.7 ± 7.53 vs. 45.8 ± 6.59 ml/min/kg, p < 0.01). Shuttle-run, sit-up and standing long jump test results were lower in JIA patients than in controls (p < 0.01). Mean (± SD) daily activity was lower (89.0 ± 44.7 vs. 112.7 ± 62.1 min/day, p < 0.05), and sedentary time was higher (427 ± 213 vs. 343 ± 211 min/day, p < 0.05) in JIA patients compared to controls. Physical activity and cardiorespiratory or neuromuscular fitness were not associated with disease activity.

CONCLUSIONS: JIA patients were physically less active and had lower cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular fitness than their same aged controls with no JIA. Therefore, JIA patients should be encouraged to engage in physical activities as a part of their multidisciplinary treatment protocols to prevent adverse health risks of low physical activity and fitness.

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