Research Summaries

OPEN (Osteoarthritis Physical Activity & Exercise Net): Can an interactive website increase physical activity in people with previously undiagnosed early knee osteoarthritis?


Principal Investigator: Linda Li, Senior Research Scientist of Clinical Epidemiology, BSc(PT), MSc, PhD. Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia


When will the final results be reported?

Development of the OPEN website is almost complete. We anticipate evaluation of the site to begin in August 2012. We expect the study to end in August 2013.


Why do this research?

Being physically active has been shown to reduce pain, improve quality of life and have potential to reduce joint damage. However, our recent survey in British Columbia found only 1 in 4 people with mild osteoarthritis symptoms (pain; stiffness) met the recommended level of physical activity. Research in people without arthritis shows that web-based tools can increase walking behaviour, but none of these tools are designed with the needs of people with arthritis in mind. Research in other chronic diseases has found that people are more likely to quit smoking shortly after the diagnosis of a smoking-related disease. Thus, the diagnosis of osteoarthritis presents an ideal ‘teachable moment’ to engage those who have been sedentary to become physically active.

The website, called OPEN (Osteoarthritis Physical Activity & Exercise Net), will be created based on a well developed behavioural theory. Our project directly targets physical inactivity at a time when the joint damage tends to be mild, and when people are more motivated to adopt a healthy behaviour. If the OPEN is found to be effective in improving physical activity, it opens further opportunities to promote early diagnosis and to implement lifestyle interventions.


What will be done?

We will then recruit 252 sedentary people with early knee osteoarthritis in British Columbia to test the website. Half of them will be assigned to use the OPEN website for 3 months and will receive an education pamphlet produced by The Arthritis Society; the other half will only receive the pamphlet. During the test period, participants will complete online questionnaires at 0, 3 and 6 months to allow us to follow changes in physical activity, knee symptoms and outcomes related to their motivation to become physically active. We will also compare changes between the two groups.


Who is funding the research?

This project has received seed-funding from the CIHR Vancouver Integrated Study of Aging (VISA) team, and a 2 –year grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) through the Knowledge-to-Action competition


Who is on the research team?


Sydney Lineker – BScPT, MSc, Director of Research, The Arthritis Society

Allyson Jones – PhD, MSc (PT), BSc PT, Clinical Epidemiologist/Associate Professor, University of Alberta

Jacek Kopec – MD, PhD, Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Senior Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada

Jolanda Cibere – MD, MPH, FRCPC, PhD, Associate Professor, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada

John Esdaile – MD, MPH, FRCPC, Scientific Director, Arthritis Research Canada, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Scott Lear – BSc, PhD, Associate Professor and Pfizer/Heart & Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research, Simon Fraser University

Ryan Rhodes – BA, MA, PhD, Professor of Behavioural Medicine, University of Victoria

Valorie Crooks – PhD, Health Geographer and Assistant Professor, Simon Fraser University

James Pencharz – MD, MSc, General Practitioner, Credit Valley Hospital


Research Staff:

Jenny Leese, PhD Trainee, ARC

Joanna Ye, Research Assistant, ARC



Arthritis Health Professions Association

Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute


Consumer Collaborators: 

Sue Borwick, Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance

Nadia Prestley and Joyce Ma, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board, ARC



To learn more, please contact Joanna Ye at 604-207-4032 or

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