Physical activity trackers: can they help people with rheumatoid arthritis to be more active?



Research has shown that people who live mainly sedentary lives (e.g. watching TV, sitting or driving) are at a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Despite this well-known information, the recent Canadian Health Measures Survey reports that 69% of Canadian adults’ waking hours are spent sedentary. For people living with painful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the challenge to be more active is even greater.

Physical Activity and Rheumatoid Arthritis

People living with RA tend to be markedly less active than others who do not have the condition. As such, people with RA are at a heightened risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. What’s more, Physical activity has been shown to significantly reduce pain while improving strength, mood, and overall functioning of people with RA.

Can Physical Activity Monitors Help?

Recognizing the benefits to be gained from increased physical activity, Dr. Li and her research team are exploring the possibility of using physical activity monitors to help motivate people living with RA to become more active. Physical activity monitors are electronic devices worn on the body that track information such as steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. It is possible that these devices can record even small increases in the amount and intensity of physical activity (i.e. from sitting to standing, or doing household chores).

The Goal of This Pilot Study


The team’s first step is to assess whether it is feasible for people with RA to wear two different activity monitors for an extended period of time. The FitBitTM Flex is a wrist-worn activity monitor that gives visual feedback on physical activity, lets you create personalized fitness goals, and integrates with social media (e.g. Facebook). The BodyMedia SenseWear™ Mini Armband is worn on the upper arm, and tracks heart rate and sweat response as well as steps taken. We are recruiting 10 participants to test the wearability and usability of each of these physical activity monitors over a 4-week period.

Participants Needed

If you are a person living with RA and would like to participate in this pilot study, please click here to fill out a questionnaire to determine if you are eligible.
Principal Investigators

Linda Li

Lynne Feehan



Cam Clayton