BACKGROUND: Exercising for ≥150 min/week is a recommended strategy for self-managing arthritis. However, exercise nonadherence is a problem. Arthritis pain anxiety may interfere with regular exercise. According to the fear-avoidance model, individuals may confront their pain anxiety by using adaptive self-regulatory responses (eg, changing exercise type or duration). Furthermore, the anxiety-self-regulatory responses relationship may vary as a function of individuals’ pain acceptance levels.OBJECTIVES: To investigate pain acceptance as a moderator of the pain anxiety-adaptive self-regulatory responses relationship. The secondary objective was to examine whether groups of patients who differed in meeting exercise recommendations also differed in pain-related and self-regulatory responses.METHODS: Adults (mean [± SD] age 49.75±13.88 years) with medically diagnosed arthritis completed online measures of arthritis pain-related variables and self-regulatory responses at baseline, and exercise participation two weeks later. Individuals meeting (n=87) and not meeting (n=49) exercise recommendations were identified.RESULTS: Hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that pain acceptance moderated the anxiety-adaptive self-regulatory responses relationship. When pain anxiety was lower, greater pain acceptance was associated with less frequent use of adaptive responses. When anxiety was higher, adaptive responses were used regardless of pain acceptance level. MANOVA findings revealed that participants meeting the recommended exercise dose reported significantly lower pain and pain anxiety, and greater pain acceptance (P<0.05) than those not meeting the dose.CONCLUSIONS: Greater pain acceptance may help individuals to focus their efforts to adapt to their pain anxiety only when it is higher, leaving self-regulatory capacity to cope with additional challenges to exercise adherence (eg, busy schedule).