How can digital support platforms assist people with rheumatoid arthritis increase physical activity levels?

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Fiona Camp

Organisation - University of West England

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship 2021

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £144,316.34

Start date - 1 October 2021

Reference - 22641

What are the aims of this research?

This research aims to increase physical activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis by implementing a behavioural intervention using a newly developed digital support platform. Increasing physical activity will improve self-management and quality of life for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Why is this research important?

Physical inactivity has been associated with many negative health outcomes and increases the onset of ill health such as heart and circulatory conditions. Although physical activity has found to be beneficial and safe for people with rheumatoid arthritis, many people living with rheumatoid arthritis have been found to be less physically active compared to people living without the condition due to fear of worsening their symptoms. Previous research has highlighted that face-to-face support aimed at increasing physical activity provided by physiotherapists is often not suitable in timing, location or personal commitments that the person may have to tend to. Not only is digital support a more flexible support option, but it has also been found to be very beneficial in supporting people achieve healthier lifestyles.

The researchers will explore existing digital platforms used to support people with rheumatoid arthritis and will assess the level of support available on the platforms as well as supporting evidence on how effective the digital support platforms are in supporting people with rheumatoid arthritis increase physical activity levels. The researchers will then develop a new digital platform aimed towards increasing physical activity levels amongst people with rheumatoid arthritis. The digital platform will be assessed in its usability and acceptability amongst users with this condition.

How will the findings benefit patients?

This research overcomes the barriers that people with rheumatoid arthritis may experience in receiving support towards increasing physical activity. Providing digital support encourages people with rheumatoid arthritis to engage in physical activity in a safe and flexible way which best suits the individuals needs. This will have multiple positive effects on physical health such as improved symptoms, decreased risk of illness onset related to physical inactivity, healthier mental wellbeing and better quality of life.