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



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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Sandra H. Soto.

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Soto, S.H., Callahan, L.F., Bahorski, S. et al. The Role of Cohabitating Partner and Relationship Characteristics on Physical Activity among Individuals with Osteoarthritis. Int.J. Behav. Med. 26, 522–530 (2019).

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  • Exercise
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spouses
  • Social support