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IntroductionThe chronic inflammatory state in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) augments the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), with pro-inflammatory cytokines tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) playing a vital role. Consequently, biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) may attenuate that risk. IL-6 is also a myokine, secreted from exercising skeletal muscles, where IL-6 exhibits anti-inflammatory effects that may ameliorate the risk of CVD. In healthy humans treated with IL-6 signalling inhibitors (IL-6i), exercise induced loss of visceral fat mass and cardiac adaptations were abolished. We hypothesise that IL-6 signalling inhibition will impair the cardiac and metabolic adaptions to exercise training compared with TNF inhibition in RA patients.Methods and analysis80 RA patients treated with IL-6i (n=40) or TNF inhibitors (n=40) are included in a 12-week randomised investigator-blinded 4×4 min high-intensity interval training (HIIT) study. Patients are stratified for medical treatment and sex and allocated 1:1 to an exercise or a no exercise control group (four groups). The supervised exercise intervention comprises 3 weekly HIIT sessions on an ergometer bicycle. The primary outcome is the change in left ventricular mass (LVM), and key secondary outcome is change in visceral fat mass. Both outcomes are measured by MRI. Primary statistical analysis will evaluate LVM at follow-up in a regression model. Intention-to-treat and per protocol analyses will be conducted. The latter necessitates a minimum attendance rate of 80%, adherence to bDMARDs treatment of ≥80% and minimum 8 min (50%) of maximal heart rate above 85% per session.Ethics and disseminationThe study has been approved by the Capital Region Ethics Committee (H-21010559 amendments 86424, 87463 and 88044) and the Danish Medicines Agency (2021-b005287-21). The trial will follow ICH-GCP guidelines. Regardless of outcome, results will be published in relevant peer-reviewed journals.Trial registration numbersEudra-CT: 2021-b005287-21 and NCT05215509.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ open

Publication Date





Centre for Physical Activity Research, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark


Humans, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Cardiovascular Diseases, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Antirheumatic Agents, Interleukin-6, Exercise, Exercise Therapy, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors