My name is Steven Schultz, and I’m the state director for advocacy and access at the Arthritis Foundation. Last fall, I had the great pleasure of joining Rep. Ami Bera, who represents the Sacramento area in Congress, for a Walk With Ease session.
Walk With Ease teaches participants how to safely make physical activity part of their everyday life. Studies by the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina show that Walk With Ease is proven to reduce the pain and discomfort of arthritis; increase balance, strength and walking pace; build confidence in your ability to be physically active; and improve overall health.
Held at the Cordova Recreation & Park District, this local program had 10-20 participants and had been meeting in six-week sessions. This session started with the coordinator of the group leading all of us in a series of stretches. The stretching session created the perfect opportunity for participants to ask Rep. Bera his thoughts on a variety of different subjects. The congressman chatted with the group about the importance of being active and how easy it is to take part in Walk With Ease.
“I was pleased to join many participants for the Walk With Ease program at Neil Orchard Senior Activities Center,” said Rep. Bera. “As a doctor, I know that daily exercise is beneficial in many ways, including helping reduce pain from arthritis. I encourage everyone to get out and stay active in your neighborhood or in connection with a program like Walk With Ease.”
One of the participants told me how much she loves the program because she feels better after walking. In addition, she said she enjoyed doing the program in a group environment because participants are accountable to each other. They want to attend the sessions to see their friends, while also knowing that if they don’t show up, they will hear about it from the group.
“The best part of the Walk With Ease program is getting to see the results,” said Heather Schelske, recreation supervisor II at the Cordova Recreation & Park District. “Many participants struggled with walking a quarter of a mile when we first started. Now, after a few months, many are up to walking a mile or more. This program works and it’s exciting to see the progress.”
Following the stretching routine, the group departed on the walk around the park as participants took turns chatting with the congressman. Several of them did another lap around the park when they were finished while others went on their way to their next daily activity. With smiles on their faces, there was no doubt the group was better off for starting their day with this activity.
This particular Walk With Ease group received funding for the program from the National Recreation and Park Association. The funding was made possible due to a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Arthritis Program. During my years with the Arthritis Foundation, I have seen Advocates attend meetings with their members of Congress in support of the CDC Arthritis Program. It was fantastic to see the benefits of that advocacy directly in my community. In addition, it was good to know there are so many active groups like this throughout the country due to the Walk With Ease program.
After the walk, I talked with Rep. Bera and his staff about the benefits of this program. I told him this program is great because it doesn’t need to be organized through a park district like this one — anyone can take part! There are companies that have embraced Walk With Ease and do it together. There are also friends who have coordinated with each other to take part in the program. Even if someone wants to do the program alone, there are self-guided sessions, too. So check out Walk With Ease today!