Empowering moms to beat arthritis through exercise

George Hulse, vice president of External Affairs at Healthfirst
Photo by Lori Cannava

May is a wonderful time to usher in the warmth of spring, to enjoy the rebirth of the season’s trees and flowers, and especially to honor the special woman in our life who delivered us into the world. In the month that we celebrate Mother’s Day, and also recognize National Arthritis Awareness Month, it’s a great opportunity to think about how to spend time with our loved ones. Taking part in simple outdoor activities to help them stay in good health is a perfect start.

For instance, take a walk. Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise that provides great health benefits. If your mother has arthritis—and even if she doesn’t — the best advice that doctors recommend for those suffering with arthritis is to be physically active.

Arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability, touches one in every five adults. Six million people in the Tri-State area alone have arthritis. Arthritis can affect people of all ages, and there are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis symptoms can include pain, stiffness, occasional swelling, redness, or difficulty in moving joints.

For starters, the more your mother can move her body and do moderate physical activity, the more she can help lessen pain and stiffness in joints and improve her ability to do daily activities. It’s like keeping a piece of machinery oiled so that it functions well—continuing to move your joints often will help arthritis. It’s a myth to think that physical activity makes arthritis worse.

Before she starts any physical activity program, make sure your mother checks with her doctor. Physical activity can include stretching arms and legs, strength-building exercises, cardiovascular exercises, and balance movements. Remember, it’s perfectly normal for her to have some pain or soreness when she begins an exercise program. Don’t let that prevent her from moving. But excess pain or fatigue would be a good reason for her to check in with her doctor, so you can both be sure she isn’t overdoing it.

To help do something about this serious and painful disease, I’m excited to share that my organization has been partnering with the Arthritis Foundation. The Arthritis Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the impact of arthritis, and funds research that for more than 60 years has restored mobility in patients.

Healthfirst® and the Arthritis Foundation are proud to sponsor a series of arthritis workshops that will help the members of our community take control of their arthritis and manage their pain. We have coupled these workshops with a walking program which meets for six weeks for 30-minute walks around local parks. Our goal is to help get people moving in the right direction to help them manage their arthritis so they can lead richer, more active lives.

George Hulse is vice president of External Affairs at Healthfirst. For more information on adopting a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst website at www.healthfirst.org.

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