The Arthritis Newsletter

Spring 2014

Can People with Arthritis Benefit from the Activity-Tracking Craze?

By Sheila Kerr and Aliya Haji


Research shows that arthritis patients who are physically active do better; in fact, exercise is a recommended treatment in the medical guidelines for those with arthritis. Unfortunately, research also shows that over half of arthritis patients don’t follow these guidelines. And, many do not have access to health professionals to learn how to safely stay active.


For those who struggle to meet the recommended daily activity targets, tracking tools may assist them to get motivated and moving. Over the years arthritis patients have used tools such as pedometers, exercise diaries, etc. to help their motivation. Today there are far more sophisticated activity-tracking tools such as:


  •  Fitbit™ — a small wristband or sensor that tracks daily activity
  •  Endomondo — a free real-time GPS tracking of walking, running, cycling, etc. which is downloaded free to a smart phone


These tools can generate all-day activity graphs which report distance, steps, stairs climbed, active minutes and calories burned, when the activity was performed and whether goals were met. Yet, many of us continue to struggle with how to use these tools, question their effectiveness, or have problems finding answers on how to best use these tools for our individual needs.


An exciting new study lead by Dr. Linda Li, is aimed at helping those of us with arthritis effectively use these activity-tracking tools:


Arthritis Care in the Digital Age:

Understanding the context of and barriers to integrating online tools to optimize physical activity


If you have arthritis and have used any activity-tracking tools, then you could become part of this study! The research team is looking for people like you to join a focus group or be interviewed about their experience.


There are many questions that need to be explored. Examples include:

  • Does the collection and display of your activity data motivate you or overwhelm you?
  • How do you set your activity goals and does the tracking help you achieve them?
  • Do you compare your results with other people to motivate you, or do you only measure your own achievements privately?
  • Are you discouraged when you are not successful in meeting your targets?
  • Do you change how you use the tools during a flare or remission?
  • Are you confident you are doing the correct exercises for someone with arthritis?
  • How will you integrate your activity-tracking with advice from your physio or occupational therapist and will it change how you communicate with them?
  • Are you worried about where all this data is stored?


You are eligible to participate the research group discussion if you:

  • Have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or any type of inflammatory arthritis.
  • Have any level of experience with online tools for general health and fitness.
  • Live in British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario.


Wouldn’t it be great to have an activity-tracking tool and a motivational community of support that understands the challenges and benefits for those of us with arthritis? This is your chance to make that happen…..your experiences will help design the arthritis-specific version of the tool to keep us moving towards better health!


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