How can online physical activity monitoring tools be used in arthritis care?

Principal Investigators:

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

Diane Gromala, PhD. Professor, Interactive Arts & Technology, Simon Fraser University

Study end date: We anticipate that we will report final results by Spring 2016.

Why do this research?

For people with arthritis, doing physical activity can reduce pain and improve their ability to move around. Despite these benefits, less than half of Canadians with arthritis are physically active. Many do not have appropriate access to health professionals to support them in staying active safely.

A number of online physical activity monitoring tools are available. Examples include online diaries, pedometers, multisensory devices and global positioning system (GPS) monitors. We will examine factors that can influence arthritis patients’ use of these tools from the perspectives of patients, health professionals, and health care decision makers. This study takes an important step forward in discovering how people with arthritis could use these tools with their health professionals to support their physical activity.

What will be done?

We conducted 9 focus groups (small group discussions) with people with osteoarthritis and/or any type of inflammatory arthritis in Ontario, Alberta and BC. Seven focus groups and 2 one-to-one interviews were also conducted with physiotherapists and occupational therapists in these 3 provinces. No previous experience of using physical activity monitoring tools was necessary to take part. Participants were recruited via notices in hospitals, clinics of rheumatologists and rehabilitation professionals, and via online ads. We gave a short presentation on some of the most popular physical activity monitoring tools in each focus group, and asked participants to describe their views and experiences of using these tools in managing arthritis. Analysis of the perspectives shared by participants is ongoing.

Next, we will interview approximately 32-42 individuals who are responsible for making decisions in how care is delivered within clinical facilities and rehabilitation programs across the 3 provinces. These decision makers will be identified by the participants of the focus groups from their health care team or clinical practice. Interviews will focus on decision makers’ views and experiences of using online monitoring tools in clinical settings, and factors influencing arthritis patients’ use of these tools.

Who is funding the research?

This grant is being funded by The Arthritis Society.

Who is on the research team?


Aileen Davis, Senior Scientist, Division of Health Care and Outcomes Research, Toronto Western Research Institute

Allyson Jones, Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alberta

Anne Townsend, PhD, Research Associate, Department of Occupational Science and Therapy, ARC

Catherine Backman, PhD, OT(C), FCAOT; Professor and Head, Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia; Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada

Antonio Aviña, MD, MSc, PhD; Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada; Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Research Staff:

Jenny Leese, Research Assistant, ARC


Arthritis Health Professions Association

Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute

Consumer Collaborators: 

Gerry Sheanh, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board, ARC

Karen Tsui, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board, ARC

Cheryl Koehn, Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE)


To learn more, please contact Jenny Leese at jleese@arthritisresearch.ca


Leese J, Macdonald GG, Tran BC, Wong R, Backman CL2, Townsend AF, Davis AM, Jones CA, Gromala D, Avina-Zubieta JA, Hoens AM, Li LC. Using Physical Activity Trackers in Arthritis Self-Management: A Qualitative Study of Patient and Rehabilitation Professional Perspectives. Arthritis Care & Research. doi: 10.1002/acr.23780. To access the publication, click here.

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