A digital health intervention to increase physical activity participation in individuals with knee osteoarthritis


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This research project aims to:

  • Conduct a systematic review to understand the relationship between physical activity motivation and preferred forms of physical activity
  • Perform a cross-sectional survey and cluster analysis to evaluate physical activity motivations in relation to preferred types of physical activity, in people with knee osteoarthritis
  • Develop a novel digital health intervention to increase physical activity participation in inactive people with knee osteoarthritis
  • Perform a pilot randomised controlled trial to determine the acceptability of the digital health intervention and the feasibility of a large RCT to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention

The details

Knee osteoarthritis is a common and disabling chronic disease. There is no cure for knee osteoarthritis, in many cases the severity of pain and functional limitations progress resulting in costly and invasive total knee replacement surgery. Physical activity is a core component of knee osteoarthritis management, with the potential to improve osteoarthritis pain, symptoms and quality of life. However, very few people with knee osteoarthritis meet physical activity guidelines.

Adherence to exercise interventions for people with knee osteoarthritis is poor and benefits are rarely sustained. Interventions are typically non-personalised and are not tailored to individuals’ activity preferences and motivations. Physical activity motivations (e.g. mastery, enjoyment, physical condition, psychological condition, appearance, competition) can discriminate between different forms of physical activity that individuals prefer to participate in (e.g. team sports, individual racing sports, exercise, racquet sports, martial arts). Evaluating an individual’s activity motivations could assist them in finding a form of physical activity that meets their needs to promote sustainable, lifelong physical activity participation.

Behaviour change theory and research on barriers to adherence highlight the need for a theory-based, personalised approach that focuses on maintenance to promote sustainable physical activity in people with knee osteoarthritis. An intervention that combines personalised activity recommendations with theory-based behaviour change techniques and innovative digital-health technology has the potential to improve the sustainability of activity participation, improve quality of life, pain and symptoms.

This can be usefully translated into meaningful information to guide shared informed decision making in the future.

The graduate researcher on this project is: Emma Searle

Supervision team

First published on 29 March 2022.

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