5-Step Guide to Activity Tracker Use for Patients With Rheumatic Diseases

woman going for walk
woman going for walk
Patients with rheumatic diseases may benefit from the use of activity trackers. Here's how you can help them get the most out of their devices.

Strapping on an activity tracker has become a part of the morning routine for many people. Otherwise known as fitness trackers, these wearable devices monitor and track physical activity, making them a potentially useful instrument for anyone looking to get and stay fit.

For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other rheumatic diseases, activity trackers may provide another benefit: encouraging movement. A study recently published in Arthritis Care & Research found that use of activity trackers was associated with an increase in steps among participants with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

Chances are, some of your patients already wear activity trackers and others might be interested in starting. Help your patients get the most out of their fitness trackers by sharing these 5 tips.

1. Read the Manual

It may not be what anyone wants to do after purchasing a new gadget, but reading the user guide is an important first step. In addition to ensuring your patients use their trackers correctly, the user manual may reveal features they might otherwise miss out on. The more they know about their device’s capabilities, the more likely your patients will be to use them every day.

2. Select a Wrist

Not all activity trackers go around the wrist – step monitors that affix to the shoes are also a popular choice – but your patients who do wear wrist trackers should keep in mind which wrist they place it on.  Generally, your dominant hand moves more than your nondominant hand. To prevent skewed data, some trackers include a setting that reduces sensitivity when the tracker is placed on the user’s dominant hand. Inform your patients that if they plan to wear the device on their dominant hand, they should adjust the settings to reflect that.

3. Create a Precise User Profile

Most wearable activity trackers prompt users to set up an account and enter information including height, weight, age, and sex. This information helps the device deliver accurate results. Explain the process to your patients and emphasize the importance of entering exact measurements.

4. Establish a Routine for Charging

While many devices have settings for optimizing battery use such as low battery mode or turning off all day syncing, it’s wise to create a charging routine. Recommend making a habit of carving out a specific time of day for charging the device. For example, if a patient always spends an hour at night unwinding on his or her computer, suggest that he or she use that time for charging.

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5. Take Advantage of Social Elements to Stay Motivated

Many activity trackers allow users to engage in an online community with fellow individuals seeking to achieve their own fitness goals. Maintaining the same level of effort and enthusiasm over a long period of time can be difficult, but these communities may serve as a valuable resource for your patients when they’re feeling unmotivated.

Final Note

Remind your patients it’s imperative that they wear their activity trackers as much as possible and work with them to establish tangible goals. In addition, viewing their physical activity can serve to motivate them to consider further positive lifestyle changes.


Davergne T, Pallot A, Dechartres A, et al. Use of wearable activity trackers to improve physical activity behavior in rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arthritis Care Res. 2018;10.1002/acr.23752.