Free exercise classes in 8 counties to help people with arthritis 

$1.2 million CDC grant funds WVU-led program

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Has a doctor or health professional told you that you have arthritis? You may be eligible for free exercise classes for people with arthritis who are not physically active. Classes are scheduled to start in March at 11 senior centers in eight West Virginia counties under a four-year $1.2 million grant to West Virginia University.

“Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, and West Virginia has the highest level of self-reported arthritis,” said Dina L. Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor in Orthopaedics and Physical Therapy at WVU. “One-third of West Virginia residents report no leisure-time physical activity. People who are physically inactive are more likely to have arthritis and chronic joint symptoms that limit their daily activities – and these are the people we are trying to reach.”

The grant was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Association of American Medical Colleges. The funding allows Jones, who is also a physical therapist with fellowship training in rheumatology, to study the relationship between physical activity and arthritis.

“We were quite pleased to receive this grant from the federal government,” Jones said. “It has allowed us to conduct a scientific review of the literature on arthritis and exercise as well as a survey to determine how ready communities are in the eight counties to begin exercise programs.  We are now ready to begin the final phase of the study in which we will determine if the exercise classes improve arthritis symptoms and physical function in the participants.”

To offer the exercise classes, WVU is partnering with the state Bureau for Public Health and the Bureau of Senior Services.

The free hour-long classes will be held each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 12 weeks. Each class is limited to 20 adults (ages 18 years and older) who have arthritis and are not physically active.

“The program focuses on flexibility, balance, low-impact aerobics and strength-training exercises – all the things health professionals say are needed to maintain health,” Jones said.

Agencies providing class sites are Calhoun County Committee on Aging, Harrison County Senior Citizens, Jackson County Commission on Aging, Kanawha Valley Senior Services, Marion County Senior Citizens, Aging and Family Services of Mineral County, Senior Monongalians and Roane County Committee on Aging. Other collaborators are the Maryland and Ohio River Valley Chapters of the Arthritis Foundation.

The program, called EnhanceFitness™, is based on research and offered at more than 277 sites around the country.

Interested people who live near one of the sites can contact the WVU Department of Orthopaedics at 866-913-HARE (4273) toll-free or 304-293-0742 to see if they qualify to join the HARE study. HARE is an acronym for Help ARthritis with Exercise.

Because this is a research study, those who qualify will be tested briefly on their basic physical abilities. They also will be expected to complete questionnaires and telephone interviews at three times – the beginning of classes, the end of classes and three months after classes end. Participants may need a note from their doctor saying that they are able to join the program.

Jones said if the exercise program proves beneficial, she and her counterparts in the state agencies might seek funding to expand the program to as many counties as possible so more West Virginians could benefit.

For information on the WVU Department of Orthopaedics see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/ortho/.

For information on the WVU Division of Physical Therapy see



For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 1-8-09

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