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July 17, 2007 > Exercise Program Helps Women with Arthritis Get Moving

Exercise Program Helps Women with Arthritis Get Moving

Washington Hospital Class Focuses on Improving Mobility

Use it or lose it. That's the old adage - and it's particularly true for people with arthritis.

"When you don't move your joints, they become stiffer and more painful," said Kathy Hesser, RN, coordinator of the Washington Hospital Women's Center. "After a while you lose your range of motion and it becomes even more difficult to perform everyday tasks."

Hesser is a certified instructor for the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, designed to help increase joint flexibility and range of motion as well as maintain muscle strength. The first two sessions begin July 30 and participants will meet twice a week for six weeks.

The course is open to women only and will be held at the Washington Hospital Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. One session will meet from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and one is scheduled from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. The fee for the six-week course is $48. To register, call (510) 608-1356.

The exercise program was developed by doctors and physical therapists to address the pain, fatigue, and decreased strength associated with arthritis, which is an umbrella term for a group of more than 120 medical conditions. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 46 million adults and 300,000 children in this country have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. It attacks the musculoskeletal system, which can cause joint pain, stiffness, swelling and inflammation.

Arthritis is the nation's leading cause of disability among American adults. More than 7 million people in this country face physical limitations for everyday activities such as walking, dressing and bathing due to arthritis.

For many years, experts thought people with arthritis should not exercise because it would damage the joints. But research has shown exercise is essential to managing the chronic disease.

Exercise Improves Wellbeing

Moderate physical activity helps to strengthen muscles and bones, increase flexibility and stamina, decrease fatigue, and improve overall wellbeing. Joint flexibility is particularly important for those with arthritis because stiff joints make it nearly impossible to perform even the simplest task like buttoning your shirt.

"We have an exercise for just about every joint in the body," Hesser said. "Even if you are in a wheelchair, we have exercises you can do. This class is for people at all levels of mobility."

Starting an exercise regimen, especially for people with arthritis, can be a daunting proposition. But the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program makes it easy.

"When you're in pain, it's hard to get moving," Hesser said. "Your self-esteem plummets, you may get depressed, and then your health gets even worse. This class can really help break that cycle."

The program is tailored to meet the individual needs of participants. Exercises focus on range of motion activities to improve flexibility, endurance exercises that help build stamina, and strengthening exercises.

To help participants better manage their disease, each class includes information on a specific topic, including diet and exercise, stress management, and medications.

"There is also a very strong social component," Hesser said. "It gets people out of the house and into a supportive environment where they can talk with others who have arthritis."

In addition, with improved mobility, many people are able to resume social activities they had given up.

"It's a total wellness program that is meant to improve both physical and emotional wellbeing," said Victoria Bruno, community programs manager at the Arthritis Foundation, Northern California Chapter. "It's really about improving quality of life for people living with arthritis."

Get the help you need to start moving again and sign up for the class at (510) 608-1356. To learn more about arthritis, visit

For more information about other Washington Hospital programs and services, visit

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