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August 6, 2010 > Washington Women's Center Now Offers Coed Arthritis Classes

Washington Women's Center Now Offers Coed Arthritis Classes

Gentle Exercise Helps Maintain Strength and Balance While Reducing Pain

When she was first kicking off a new Arthritis Foundation exercise program at the Washington Women's Center, center coordinator, Kathy Hesser, R.N., thought it would be successful if five people signed up. Then ten eager participants showed up for the first class, and since then the program has only continued to generate more and more interest.

"This class is an Arthritis Foundation official class," Hesser explains. "The foundation has physical therapists, rheumatologists and other arthritis experts that evaluate and update the exercises, and our instructors must be certified through foundation. We are continuously integrating new exercises into the program, so the program is always improving and growing.

"The bottom line is that the program does help with flexibility and, most importantly, balance. For older people with arthritis, falls are the worst thing that can happen to them. By making sure you maintain your strength and balance and decrease your pain, this program can help keep you at a level where you are maintaining activities of daily living."

Gentle exercises increase strength and promote relaxation

Classes are structured in an intimate group setting and participants go through a series of gentle exercises while listening to relaxing music.

Warm-up begins in a seated position on a chair and progresses into gentle range-of-motion and isometric exercises. Instructors then lead participants through a mild resistance training routine for the arms and legs with the use of elastic bands.

From there, participants move into the endurance portion of the program, in which they work on more than one joint at a time. All exercises can be performed while seated in a chair, Hesser points out, and if seated, participants perform the endurance section by moving their arms and legs while in a seated position.

Cool-down is performed with some fluid motions and a few additional range-of-motion and isometric sequences. The finale is the relaxation component, which Hesser says is the most popular part of the entire routine.

"After relaxation, everyone leaves feeling very calm and more in-tune with their body," she says. "Along with decreased pain, they also feel more energy and sleep better at night. Most people, when they start, say: 'This is way too easy,' and by the time they leave, they're saying: 'I feel better, and I can turn my head more.'

"Generally, what I get people telling me that have been going to the classes is that it works - it decreases their pain and helps them stay stronger. People who were going on trips say they were able to do the things they wanted to do during their vacation. An important added benefit is that many said their blood pressure was better."

Co-ed arthritis exercise class now being offered

Hesser credits Dr. Barry Shibuya, M.D., a Washington Hospital rheumatologist, as the one who recommended the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, which has recently marked its third anniversary at the Women's Center. With more instructors trained in the program, a new coed class has been added at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. This class has been a much needed option for those that work and an opportunity to open up one of the sessions for men.

Two other women-only sections meet on:
* Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and Mondays and Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m.

Sign Up Now!

All of the current arthritis sessions have openings and are beginning again in August.

Learn more

To find out more about the ongoing Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program or to get details about the coed section of the class, call Kathy Hesser at (510) 608-1356.

For more information about programs and services at the Washington Women's Center, visit

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