Looking to start strength training? We’ve got your back!

I START stands for “Improving Strength Training and Tailoring Among People with Rheumatoid Arthritis” but this project will benefit anyone wanting to improve their strength and overall health.

The Problem

Building muscle around joints is important for people living with arthritis. International physical activity guidelines recommend adults engage in strength training exercises at least twice a week. Yet, 86% of people with rheumatoid arthritis do not do regular strength training exercises – even when their disease is well controlled.

Current Solution

Regular strength training can improve pain, function, and quality of life and even decrease risk for serious complications like heart disease. However, arthritis symptoms and other factors often stand in the way and health professionals use a one-size-fits-all approach to prescribing physical activity that doesn’t work for everyone.


This unique research project was created to support people with rheumatoid arthritis to participate in strength training. Researchers are working to identify ways to support people to strength train and to develop methods to customize physical activity interventions. The goal? help people with arthritis stay healthy and strong.

The Research

A team of healthcare providers collaborated with people living with arthritis to identify barriers to strength training. They learned that people struggle with…

Remembering exercise technique

Knowing how to adapt exercise routines during a flare

Distinguishing between arthritis-related joint pain and delayed onset muscle soreness from exercising

Fearing that exercise may trigger arthritis symptoms

“In total, our research revealed over 50 challenges to participating in strength training. Even healthcare professionals expressed uncertainty in prescribing strength training to people with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Dr. Jasmin Ma

Clinician Investigator, Arthritis Research Canada

What’s else is being done?

Research Summary

Researchers are reviewing existing research on how to increase strength training participation and how to customize physical activity prescriptions for individuals.


Researchers are speaking with people living with rheumatoid arthritis to gain a better understanding of how medical professionals can better promote and prescribe strength training.


The team is developing interventions to improve strength training participation and physical activity programs for individuals. There will be toolkits for health and exercise professionals and patients.

Why do this research?

If we can help people with arthritis do regular strength training, we can also…

Decrease their pain.

Reduce their fatigue.

Lower their risk for serious complications like heart disease.

Research Scientist

Dr. Jasmin Ma, PhD, P.Kin

Dr. Jasmin Ma, PhD, P.Kin

Clinician Investigator, Arthritis Research Canada


Dr. Jasmin Ma is an assistant professor of teaching in the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She teaches and provides training in the areas of exercise prescription, physical activity behaviour change, and disability. Her research and educational leadership activities include three areas of focus: 1) implementing experiential learning opportunities in community-based exercise settings, 2) co-developing knowledge translation tools for clinicians to promote and prescribe physical activity for people with chronic disease and disability, and 3) advancing the methodology of physical activity counselling and tailoring, particularly for people with arthritis and spinal cord injury.

Dr. Ma completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Department of Physical Therapy at UBC and at Arthritis Research Canada with Dr. Linda Li where her work focused on supporting strength training behaviour change and developing methods for tailored physical activity interventions among people with chronic disease and disability.

Combining her research and role as a practicing kinesiologist (BCAK) and inclusive fitness trainer (ACSM), she works with clinicians and community members to provide physical activity participation opportunities for people with diverse physical abilities.

Want to access the I START Toolkit?

Download your free copy today.