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May is Arthritis Awareness Month. Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders that affect people of all ages, races and genders. The three most common are Osteoarthritis (OA), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Juvenile Arthritis (JA). Arthritis affects more than 50 million Americans and limits activity more than heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

Exercise is an important tool in the fight against arthritis; however, adults with arthritis are less active than other adults. For example, although walking has been shown to improve arthritis pain, fatigue, function and quality of life, more than 50% of people with arthritis do not walk at all.

Walking is easy to do and it’s free. Additionally, it lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke for women by 20%. Thirty minutes of walking reduces the risk of hip fractures by 40%. Walking increases life expectancy up to 8 years over non-walkers.

Walking increases your strength, and moves the pressure and weight from the joints to the muscles. This helps to lessen arthritis pain.

The good news is that you don’t have to walk for the recommended 30 minutes a day all at one time. You can break it up into 10-minute sessions spread out during the day. You can walk around your house, around the block or at the mall.

Here are some Ideas to keep on walking; time your walks after breakfast, lunch and dinner, walk with a friend (could be a dog), or listen to music, this will help you keep a good pace. The trick is to just do it.

Begin easy with one step at a time and then add another step and then one more. Make a contract with yourself to try it for 30 days and then see how you feel. You might like it!

It’s important to stretch the calf, hip flexors, hamstring and inner thigh muscles before and after walking. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Now, it’s time to get out and soak up those sun rays!

Mary Ann Wilson

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