Examining the role of wearable technology in managing arthritis



March 11, 2021 (Vancouver) – New research raises questions about the benefits and downsides of increased self-awareness of physical activity levels caused by use of wearable technology.

Researchers analyzed data from seven studies that qualitatively examined the use of wearables from the perspectives of people with arthritis. Participants used a wearable during research participation in three studies and as part of usual self-management in two studies. In the remaining two studies, participants did not use a wearable and shared their opinions on what it might be like if they did.

“While consumer wearables are popular among healthy individuals, their use in the management of chronic illnesses is limited because potential applications are in the early stages of development,” said Jenny Leese, a research trainee at Arthritis Research Canada and the study’s lead researcher. “Our research contributes early insight to an understanding of how wearables may be successfully incorporated into arthritis self-management.”

Strong evidence has yet to show how to successfully design and implement wearable-based physical activity programs to achieve long-term behaviour change, and potential strategies have been predominantly explored in academic rather than real-world contexts.

Questions remain about the full spectrum of experiences (positive and negative) from the use of physical activity wearables in the management of chronic illnesses, with some trials reporting unexpected negative outcomes like increased pain, elevated levels of depression, or regained weight among persons with chronic illnesses.

Physical activity plays an important role in managing arthritis. Yet, people with arthritis often do not meet recommended physical activity levels. Current evidence suggests using consumer wearable devices (like pedometers and fitness bands) could support people with chronic illness to be physically active.

“If we are to learn whether and how to successfully design and implement wearable technology to support arthritis self-management, a better understanding of the perspectives of persons with arthritis on the use of physical activity wearables in their everyday lives is essential,” Leese said.


To read the research paper, please click here


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Officer
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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