Success for New Exercisers with Arthritis

Upper Valley Aquatics Center (UVAC), in conjunction with the Arthritis Foundation, is offering a program called Walk with Ease to help you get out of the house and stay active during the winter season and beyond.   Walk with Ease is a proven program to reduce pain and increase overall health in a friendly, motivational, and much like the weather this time of year, an invigorating setting.


The next program runs Jan. 15 to Feb. 23 and is also offered in March, April and May. It will provide participants with three walking sessions per week, to help them learn to safely make physical activity a part of everyday life.  Classes are outdoors, but indoor walking is available if weather is not permitting.


There’s no need for fancy equipment, but that doesn’t stop walking from being a powerful form of exercise. Studies by the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Institute for Aging of the University of North Carolina shows that Walk with Ease is proven to:

  • Reduce the pain and discomfort from arthritis
  • Increase balance, strength, and walking pace
  • Build confidence in your ability to be physically active
  • Improve overall health

Exercise has proven to help with depression and anxiety and control obesity and high blood pressure associated with inactivity, as well.


The program is taught by Kathleen Danforth, a wellness coach and certified fitness instructor for seniors, who has an extensive background working in the field. “Everyone says you’re here for a reason and that’s what I’m here to do,” she said. “I have a heart for seniors and I love working with them.”


Danforth, who has worked as a licensed nurses aid (LNA) in the public and private sector and previously served as a Matter of Balance (a program that helps older adults and people get over the fear of falling) coach at UVAC, knows first hand the value of an exercise program for seniors as well as the incentive needed to make Walk with Ease a worthwhile and successful part of a daily routine. A longtime smoker, the Proctorsville, VT native began working out, transforming to a healthy lifestyle she wants to share with participants of the program.  “A lot of people won’t go out and walk because they don’t want to do it alone. They don’t have the motivation and get deconditioned and are at a risk for falling,” she said. “Moving and walking does has both mental and physical rewards and helps ease the pain of arthritis.”


Danforth has witnessed the program’s positive results first hand. “In my first class there was someone who couldn’t walk for 10 minutes at the start. By the end of the program the person was walking for the entire hour,” said a delighted Danforth.


Participants of a recent class also rave about the rewards. “The program has made a huge difference in my being able to walk more and easier,” said Mary Lou.

The program got me walking with more regularity. I like walking three days a week in class with others,” added Joanne. I found the stretches valuable and try to do them when I walk outside of class.

I found it to be a lot of fun because of the people you meet,” said Nancy. “It helps ease my pain!


Danforth stays in touch with many of the class members, including Ken, who praised her work and encouragement provided by the instructor. “The session nicely combined enjoyment and physical improvement,” he wrote. “I appreciated both your steady encouragement and your well-timed nudges – that is, your belief that we would become stronger, more confident walkers only by extending ourselves, if just a bit, with each class.”


A simple, but highly worthwhile five-step program that incorporates stretching, warmup and cool down walks into the regiment, Walk with Ease allows participants the opportunity to walk at their own pace. A valuable handbook is given to each class member, providing educational and motivational tips that are discussed in class. In addition, participants can also track their steps with a daily diary and program contract where you set realistic goals. Periodic testing is also done to gauge progress. While many winter walks stay close to home around UVAC, classes also get to enjoy many of the beautiful and scenic walking trails around the area.


“Walking is so simple, but it’s so important. “It’s the best exercise they can do at their age,” said Danforth, who also noted the long range rewards of recreation, preventing injuries and falls down the road and the ability to maintain an independent lifestyle.


“Many of the class members stay in touch with each other,” said Danforth. “They now have someone they can call and say,” ‘ Do you want to go out for a walk?’”


Ready to reap the benefits of walking?   Sign up for the Walk with Ease program at Upper Valley Aquatics Center and start walking! By calling the Welcome Desk 802-296-2850 ex 0 or come in.


Danforth says you won’t regret it. “I fell in love with fitness and now it’s a big part of my life that I want to share with seniors,” she said. “I can keep up with my grandchildren, but they can’t keep up with me.”


By Stuart Kaufman — UVAC member, Grantham, NH resident, retired Sports Writer at Keene State College, currently Scribe at Dartmouth College


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