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Walk Your Way to Better Health

December 25, 2012

Washington Women's Center Class Can Help You Get Started

"I am passionate about helping people incorporate walking into their lives," said Patty Chadwell, a registered nurse and certified Walk With Ease instructor at Washington Women's Center. "I've been walking for many years and it is a great way to improve your health. When you do it in a group, it becomes a fun social event and you forget you're actually exercising."

Walk With Ease was developed by the Arthritis Foundation to help people with the chronic disease increase their strength and flexibility, but it is open to anyone who wants to get in better shape. The six week class is held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m. for a total of 18 sessions. The next class starts on Monday, January 7.

The class will be held in the Women's Center Conference Room, located in Suite 145 at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. The cost is $75 and participants must pre register by calling (510) 608-1356. The class size is limited to 15 people.

"If you can be on your feet for 10 minutes without increased pain, you can have success with the program," Chadwell said. "It is appropriate for people of all fitness levels."

In studies by the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina, Walk With Ease was shown to reduce pain, increase balance and strength, and improve overall health.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are a number of other health benefits associated with walking, including:

  • Builds bone mass and reduces the risk of osteoporosis
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Boosts endorphins
  • Improves brain function
  • Eases stress, anger, fatigue, and confusion
  • Increases balance

Getting Started

The class offers a structured format that will be tailored to meet the individual needs of participants. For example, the length of walking time each session will depend on how far the group is able to walk, Chadwell explained. Participants will walk at their own pace.

Each session will begin with a brief discussion about a topic that is important to successful walking or arthritis management such as tips for walking safely, good body mechanics, and problem solving strategies for dealing with challenges. The discussion will be followed by a warm up and stretching, then the walk will take place, and finally a cool down with more stretching.

"The program is based on research and tested programs in exercise science, behavior change, and arthritis management," Chadwell said. "It is designed to educate people with arthritis about successful physical activity. But I want to stress that anyone can benefit from the program even if they don't have arthritis."

The program gives people the opportunity to build and develop an ongoing aerobics fitness program, she added. Chadwell said she expects that many people who join the program may currently be only able to walk five to fifteen minutes. The goal is to help them gradually build up to 30 minutes of walking three times a week.

At first participants will walk on the second floor of the Women's Center. As weather permits and if it works for the group, they will venture outside.

"Walking is nearly the perfect activity," Chadwell added. "The only equipment it requires is a pair of shoes and you can do it from home. You can walk alone or get your friends to join you, and it offers so many benefits."

For information about other services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.