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July 15, 2009 > Work Out the Pain in a Supportive Environment

Work Out the Pain in a Supportive Environment

Washington Hospital Exercise Class is for Women with Arthritis

Studies show exercise can reduce the pain associated with arthritis and improve mobility and overall health and well-being. But getting started can be difficult. Washington Hospital offers an exercise class for women with arthritis that can help you get moving in a supportive environment.

"The class is fun and very welcoming," said Kathy Hesser, a certified Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program instructor at Washington Hospital. "Women come together and talk about their struggles and successes while exercising and learning ways to manage their pain."

The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program is a six-week program with two classes each week. The class meets on Mondays and Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m. starting July 23. It is held at the Washington Women's Center Conference Room, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 145 in Fremont. The program is limited to 15 participants and registration is required. The fee is $48 - payment by check or credit card is due prior to the first class. Call (510) 608-1301 to register.

While arthritis is often referred to as a single disease, it is actually a term used to describe more than 100 medical conditions that affect the joints. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common. Arthritis causes pain, stiffness and the loss of movement in the joints.

"Exercise can help decrease the pain and increase mobility," Hesser said. "It also helps reduce the fatigue and depression that often come with arthritis."

An in-depth study on the effectiveness of the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, published last year, concluded regular exercise can reduce pain and stiffness by keeping joints flexible and muscles strong. Study participants reported a decrease in pain and fatigue, an increase in upper body and lower extremity function, and an increase in strength after participating in the basic program.

The class starts with a half hour of discussion. Participants share how they are doing and then Hesser presents information on a number of related topics, including diet, setting individual goals, managing stress, and managing pain.

"The curriculum was developed by the Arthritis Foundation," Hesser said.
Low-Impact Routine

The second half hour of class is spent exercising. The low-impact routine includes gentle range-of-motion movements that can be done while sitting or

"Although it's a group environment, the routine is individualized," said Hesser. "Some women do it sitting; others do it more vigorously and really get their heart rate going. The class is for all fitness levels."

She encourages women to move to comfort, never pain. "No pain, no gain is not our philosophy. Pain is a warning sign you need to take seriously."

Hesser said consistency is the key and those who keep at it experience huge benefits from the class.

"Women who diligently come twice a week see big differences. They are stronger and feel more confident. Some of the ladies have told me they feel more confident they aren't going to fall. The class has helped others gain the strength and mobility needed to resume daily living activities many of us take for granted, like getting dressed, buttoning our shirt or tying our shoes."

Staying active can also help people with arthritis keep their weight under control, which reduces stress on weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees and spine.

"Physical activity is so important when it comes to managing your arthritis," Hesser said. "The ladies who come to my class are in pain all the time and they are looking for a way to better manage it. This class can help, and it's such a supportive environment."

Learn more tips to help you get moving and ways to manage your arthritis at

For information about other programs and services offered by Washington Hospital, go to

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