Walk With Ease into Better Health


April 1, 2024, 3:18 pm | Dawn Dunnegan

older adults walking along a path outdoors by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com/AMES, Iowa – Although walking is a safe activity that benefits health, sometimes it can be difficult to start a walking program and stay motivated. That is why Iowa State University is offering Walk With Ease to help Iowans ease into better health, says Dawn Dunnegan, a human sciences specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.

Walk With Ease is a six-week, evidence-based program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. It is endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help older adults establish healthy patterns of physical activity through walking, said Dunnegan, who specializes in family wellbeing.

Over 600,000 Iowans live with arthritis and suffer from pain and its limitations. According to CDC reports, an estimated 53.2 million adults in the United States have had a medical diagnosis of arthritis.

Arthritis symptoms can be a barrier to physical activity, and inactivity among people with arthritis is associated with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and functional limitations. However, regular physical activity can be an important way to reduce pain, improve function and manage symptoms for people with arthritis and other chronic conditions. Walk With Ease participants learn to build healthy habits. They also learn how to increase their strength, flexibility and balance, which helps to reduce the risk of falls, Dunnegan noted.

Iowa State University is partnering with Iowa Community HUB to enhance the scope and reach of arthritis programming across the state. The project, funded through a cooperative agreement with the CDC will help build capacity for Walk With Ease to be offered more broadly. ISU Extension and Outreach, Area Agencies on Aging, YMCAs and other community health educators are being trained to offer programs in Iowa communities. A strength of the program is that it can be offered in group settings or through virtual (self-directed) formats as well as hybrid options that include both elements.

Participants in Walk With Ease engage in structured walking sessions that enhance joint flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and mental resilience. The program caters to diverse fitness levels, ensuring inclusivity for all, Dunnegan continued. As a certified Walk With Ease facilitator, Dunnegan inspires participants to embrace movement, connect with others and thrive.

Organizations that would like to partner with ISU Extension and Outreach to offer Walk With Ease locally may contact their ISU Extension and Outreach county office to connect with a human sciences specialist in family wellbeing.

Walking can improve cardiovascular health, help people who have diabetes, assist with weight maintenance and provide many other health benefits. Joining a walking group also can help support positive mental health and connections to others, Dunnegan said.

“Let’s walk together toward better health! Whether you’re stepping out virtually or hitting the pavement in person, Walk With Ease invites you to be part of a stronger, healthier Iowa,” Dunnegan said.

For more information about the Walk With Ease program, visit the Walk With Ease @ ISU website, www.walkwitheaseisu.org/.

Photo credit: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com

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