Refresher course in walking may help

Did you know 46 percent of older adults have arthritis? Wow.

For me, it's an achy, irritating, drag-me-down pain that periodically gnaws at my hand and wrist and then crawls up my arm. It makes me grumpy, especially when it's accompanied by unexpected weakness, and I'm less able to easily pick up my 18-pound grandbaby.

I broke my wrist a few years ago, and the physical therapist said, "You can expect to have some arthritis in your wrist and arm later in life as a result of this break."

He was right.

It's clear I don't have anything to complain about when I hear stories about the unrelenting and debilitating arthritic pain many aging adults experience. I'm ever interested in solutions to age-related problems, so I have a suggestion: Take a walk.

You could start with this year's "Walk for Arthritis" on Saturday, Oct. 5. It's the "signature fundraising event for the Arthritis Foundation" and a refreshing way to schmooze with others about arthritic pain management and maybe explore new approaches (call 503-245-5695 for more information).

If you're not available on that date, I have another suggestion. A "Walk With Ease" program, which has the potential to change your life, is being launched locally. It's sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, Oregon State University Extension and a collaboration of local providers and health educators. Certified instructors will hold one-hour classes two times a week for nine weeks. The free classes provide health-related discussion and self-paced group walking. You know those little nudges we often need to start making a lifestyle change? This could be one of those.

I think of this idea on the same terms I think about my aforementioned grandbaby. He is in the early stages of learning to walk and needs a little assistance, lots of practice and ever-smiling encouragement. And maybe an occasional hand to hold.

We all learned to walk once, but some of us could use a refresher course. In studies by the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina, the Walk With Ease program demonstrated that people participating experienced "reduced pain, increased balance and strength and improved overall health."

Mayo Clinic experts say that when you have a diagnosis of arthritis, "exercise is crucial "¦ it increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain and helps combat fatigue."

In addition to personal coaching and a built-in support group, the Walk With Ease approach provides a take-home guidebook and a customized fitness routine. It starts at 10 a.m. on Tuesday Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 17. Call 541-773-7718, ext. 400, for more information.

Think of it as the beginning of a lifestyle change. Or maybe it's a made-for-you pain-management solution. Better yet, consider it a hand to hold.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at

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