The Role of Cohabitating Partner and Relationship Characteristics on Physical Activity among Individuals with Osteoarthritis

  • Sandra H. SotoEmail author
  • Leigh F. Callahan
  • Stephanie Bahorski
  • Mary Altpeter
  • Derek P. Hales
  • Ashley Phillips
  • Dana Carthron
  • Christine Rini



Most individuals with knee or hip osteoarthritis do not meet recommendations for physical activity. The Social Cognitive Theory suggests that the social environment (e.g., spouses/partners) may influence the physical activity of individuals with osteoarthritis. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the physical activity of insufficiently active, coupled adults with osteoarthritis was associated with received partner support for physical activity, partner’s engagement in physical activity, and relationship satisfaction.


Cross-sectional data from 169 couples were collected. Accelerometers estimated moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and daily steps for participants with osteoarthritis and their partners. Participants with osteoarthritis reported total received partner support for physical activity and relationship satisfaction.


Participants with osteoarthritis were on average 65 years old, 65% female, 86% non-Hispanic white, and 47% retired. Receiving total partner support more frequently was associated with more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity but not with steps. Relationship satisfaction moderated the association of partner’s physical activity on the daily steps of individuals with osteoarthritis such that having a partner who accomplished more daily steps was associated with participants with osteoarthritis accomplishing more daily steps themselves when they reported greater relationship satisfaction.


Partners and relationship satisfaction may play an important role in the physical activity of individuals with osteoarthritis. Interventions seeking to increase physical activity in this population may be enhanced by promoting partner support. Additional research is needed to further explain these associations within the context of relationship satisfaction.


Exercise Osteoarthritis Spouses Social support 



This study was funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases under award P60AR062760 and the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award T32NR007091. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chapel Hill, School of NursingUNCChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Thurston Arthritis Research CenterChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineUNCChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Gillings School of Public Health, Department of NutritionUNCChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Division of Emergency MedicineDuke University School of MedicineDurhamUSA
  6. 6.College of NursingMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  7. 7.John Theurer Cancer CenterHackensack University Medical CenterHackensackUSA
  8. 8.Georgetown University School of MedicineWashingtonUSA

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