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Internet programme gets children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis moving

30 March 2010

An internet programme developed by the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) called reumaatjes work getting children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis moving. The children are also able to keep up with the programme. This has been revealed by PhD research conducted by physiotherapist Otto Lelieveld of the UMCG. Lelieveld will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 7 April 2010.

About 2,500 children in the Netherlands have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a disease that is associated with inflamed joints. Virtually every day the children suffer from stiff joints, pain and lethargy. Their disease means that they move very little and have less stamina than their healthy peers. This is evident when cycling or walking to school as well as during short, intensive periods of movement (a sprint or lifting weights). Nor are they able to pace themselves and they are often completely exhausted at the end of the day.

Reumaatjes work

Physiotherapist Otto Lelieveld developed and tested an internet training programme at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), intended for children between the ages of 8 and 12 with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The programme takes 16 weeks and provides the children with information about their disease via the internet, and also tells them how they can improve their physical fitness and level of exercise. The children and their parents have four group meetings in the UMCG. That is when their fitness is measured and goals set or adjusted. The reumaatjes work programme can be found at

Energy management

Part of the training programme is directed towards energy management, explains Lelieveld. ‘We have the children compare their energy levels with that of a battery. If the battery is small, you can make it bigger by training. You can charge the battery by sleeping or resting. This teaches children when to slow down and when to speed up.’ Once the programme had finished, the children were better able to manage their limitations than children who had not followed the programme – on a treadmill with increasing speed and angle, the children performed significantly better. In addition, the children who were initially not very active began to take more physical exercise than similar children in the control group.

To each his own exercise

According to Lelieveld, reumaatjes work is successful because children learn to exercise in a way that suits them. ‘One child prefers cycling, another in-line skating or football. The programme takes this into account and by giving assignments and tailored feedback children can choose what suits them best.’ Lelieveld has been awarded a grant of EUR 180,000 by the Reumafonds [National Arthritis Trust] to optimize the programme and introduce it beyond the borders of the north Netherlands region.

Curriculum Vitae

Otto Lelieveld (Deventer, 1957) studied physiotherapy in Deventer. He conducted his research at the departments of Rehabilitation and Paediatrics of the UMCG, where he will continue to work as a physiotherapist. His research was financed by the Beatrixoord Noord Nederland Foundation, the Beatrix Children’s Hospital Foundation and the company OIM Orthopedie. His thesis is entitled Physical activity and physical fitness in juvenile idiopathic arthritis. His PhD supervisors at Medical Sciences were Prof. J.H.B. Geertzen and Prof. P.J.J. Sauer. Dr M.A. van Leeuwen and Dr E. van Weert were co-supervisors.

Note for the press

Contact: the UMCG press office, tel. 050-361 2200

Last modified:13 March 2020 12.58 a.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

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