“I exercise to postpone death” – Interviews with persons with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis who are attending an osteoarthritis school

Background: Physical activity (PA) and exercise constitute the first line of treatment for osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip and/or knee. Even though the symptoms may vary, OA should be considered a chronic disease and therefore PA and exercise should be performed lifelong. That needs knowledge and motivation.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore and create a deeper understanding of the motivational processes for PA and exercise for persons with hip and/or knee OA who have participated in a self-management program OA school that included long-term exercise supervised by physical therapists.
Methods: Twenty-two in-depth interviews were conducted with 18 participants recruited from the OA school at a Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Clinic in Sweden. The interviews were analyzed with qualitative content analysis.
Results: The analysis resulted in one main theme, Developing health literacy to encourage motivational processes for PA and exercise in OA and four themes: 1) meeting an established self-management program; 2) carrying my life history; 3) understanding the intelligence of the body; and 4) growing in existential motivation
Conclusion: Motivation for being physically active and to exercise, the life history in relation to PA and what creates existential motivation are important areas to ask questions about when people come to OA schools. Knowledge about the signals of the body connected to OA should be implemented in OA schools in order to motivate people to live an active life despite OA. Health literacy and the awareness of how PA can postpone death are likely to be important for existential motivation.