|August 15, 2013
DPHHS has a walking program that can help those with arthritis
HELENA — The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Arthritis Program, in collaboration with the Arthritis Foundation, offers a walking program in numerous Montana locations to help people with arthritis.
“Walking has many benefits,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “It has been shown to improve arthritis pain, fatigue, physical function, strength, balance, and quality-of-life. Walking is also easy on the joints and is the preferred physical activity for adults with arthritis.”
Participants in the Walk With Ease walking program typically meet two to three times per week. The program promotes education about walking safely and comfortably, arthritis self-management, and successful physical activity for people with arthritis. Under the direction of a certified instructor, classes begin with a pre-walk discussion, covering a specified topic related to exercise and arthritis, followed by a 10 to 40 minute walk that includes a warm-up and cool-down.
According to Heather Beck of the DPHHS Arthritis Program, anyone is eligible to participate. Beck adds that classes run year round and many of the sites have indoor space available for walking during winter months. “Some sites charge a fee, but some do not,” Beck said. “However, scholarships are available for those unable to pay at sites where a fee is required.”
Walk With Ease has been offered in Montana for a number of years and continues to make an impact. “This program has been proven to reduce arthritis symptoms and improve function,” Beck said.
Helena participant Ray Larson said the program has definitely been helpful. “These exercises have helped me stretch the pain away, and to get better balance,” he said.
Unfortunately, few adults walk regularly. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that over 50 percent of adults with arthritis in all states walk less than 90 minutes per week.
Among Montana adults with arthritis, over 65 percent walked less than 90 minutes per week. The good news is that almost one in four adults with arthritis in Montana met national physical activity recommendations by walking 150 or more minutes per week.
For adults with arthritis, physical activity is an essential self-management strategy proven to reduce pain and increase function. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend all adults, including those with arthritis, participate in 150 minutes per week or more of at least moderate intensity physical activity. This can be achieved by walking 30 minutes per day at least five days per week. Walking is a low impact, acceptable, and effective way to achieve the proven benefits of physical activity.
“For those who can’t walk for 30 minutes at a time there are alternatives,” Beck said. “It is important for people with arthritis to know that you don’t have to do all 30 minutes at once. You can break it up into 10 minute sessions and spread them throughout the day.”
Classes are available in Big Timber, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Columbus, Dillon, Florence, Fort Belknap, Hamilton, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Lewistown, Libby, Livingston, Missoula and Polson. Several cities have classes available at more than one location.
To find a class or for more information on Montana’s Arthritis Program go to www.dphhs.mt.gov/arthritis.