WVU offers free exercise classes for people with arthritis

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. The classes are part of a $1.2 million research study called HARE – Help Arthritis with Exercise – conducted by West Virginia University.

The first round of classes recently ended with more than 200 participants at various locations around the state.  Classes resume in March in Calhoun, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Marion, Mineral, Monongalia, and Roane counties. The free hour-long classes are held each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 12 weeks. Each class is limited to adults 18 years and older who have arthritis and are not physically active.  

“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 not physically active are more likely to have arthritis and chronic joint symptoms that limit their daily activities--these are the people we are trying to reach.”

Jones and her colleagues are studying the relationship between physical activity and arthritis and will determine if the exercise classes improve arthritis symptoms and physical function in the participants. The exercise classes are part of a program called EnhanceFitness. The program is based on research and is being offered at 416 sites in 25 states around the country. To offer the exercise classes, WVU partnered with the state Bureau for Public Health and the Bureau of Senior Services.

“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.

Interested people who live near one of the sites can contact Jenn Eicher in the WVU Department of Orthopaedics at 866-913-HARE (4273) toll-free to see if they qualify to join the HARE study.  

Because this is a research study, those who qualify will be tested briefly on their basic physical abilities. Participants will also 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 might seek funding to expand the program to as many counties as possible so more West Virginians could benefit.

A four-year, $1.2 million grant, provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Association of American Medical Colleges, is funding this research.

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

For information on the WVU Division of Physical Therapy, see www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/pt/index.asp.


For more information:
Kim Fetty, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
kf: 01-28-10

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