What is the Walk With Ease Program?
The Arthritis Foundation Walk With Ease Program is a community-based physical activity and self-management education program. It can be done by individuals using the Walk With Ease guidebook on their own, or by groups led by trained leaders. Both the individual and group formats are set up as a structured six- or nine-week program. While walking is the central activity, Walk With Ease is a multi-component program that also includes health education, stretching and strengthening exercises, and motivational strategies. Group sessions include socialization time, pre-walk informational lecturettes, warm up and cool downs, and a 10-35 minute walking period.
What are the program goals and objectives?
The overall goals of the Walk With Ease Program are threefold:
- To promote education about successful physical activity for people, and especially those with arthritis-like symptoms
- To promote education about arthritis self-management and walking safely and comfortably
- To encourage participants to continue their walking program and explore other exercise and self-management programs that deliver proven benefits for people
By the end of the six-week program period, participants will:
- Understand the basics about arthritis and the relationship between arthritis, exercise, and pain
- Learn how to exercise safely and comfortably
- Use methods to make walking fun
- Make a doable personal walking plan with realistic goals for improved fitness
- Gather tips, strategies, and resources to help them overcome barriers and continue to be physically active
- Learn about other programs and resources that can help maintain walking and other physical activity.
What is the target population?
Everyone is welcome to join Walk With Ease! The program was specifically developed for adults with arthritis who want to be more physically active. The program is also appropriate for people without arthritis, particularly those with diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions, who want to get more active. The only pre-requisite is the ability to be on your feet for at least 10 minutes without increased pain.
What are the essential program components and activities?
The essential program components are:
- Walking: 10-35 minutes walking duration
- Health Education Information: All participants receive the Walk With Ease guidebook which is organized in a logical sequence to provide the information needed to help participants get ready to walk, begin walking, and stay motivated to continue walking. Both the guidebook and the corresponding lecturettes conducted during the group sessions provide basic information on arthritis, managing pain and stiffness, tips on proper clothing and equipment, self-monitoring for physical problems, what to do when exercise hurts, and how to anticipate and overcome barriers to being physically active.
- Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Both the individual and the group participants are encouraged to do stretching exercises when they walk and strengthening exercises twice a week.
- Motivational Tips and Tools: The Walk With Ease guidebook includes self-tests, a six week contract and walking diary forms to help participants identify their needs and interests, to set goals and rewards, and to track progress. Each guidebook chapter also contains motivational tips. The group classes review these tools and encourage their use throughout the program. An online support component is also available to individual and group participants. The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease website provides several resources.
What is the length/timeframe of the program?
Both the individual and the group format are structured as an 18-session, six- or nine-week walking program.
Self-directed: Individuals using the workbook on their own are encouraged to work up to walking at least three times a week and to utilize all of the resources in the workbook over a six or nine-week period.
Group-led: The group classes meet three times a week for six weeks, or two times a week for nine weeks (a total of 18 sessions). Depending on the physical capabilities of the group and the amount of time they spend socializing before and after classes, the average class session length may last as little as 45 minutes in the beginning weeks of the program but may increase to an hour or more as the group improves their fitness level. The standardized scripts for the class sessions suggest that the walking time progresses an additional 5 minutes each week, as the group capability allows.
What if we don’t have an hour in which to do the class?
That’s okay! We have recently received approval to do a hybrid version of the class. This means that you can do either the walking or educational activity as a group, and have the participants complete the other component on their own. Do make sure to include social support and motivational strategies into your group sessions!
What is the recommended class size?
The recommended class size is 12-15 participants per leader. Groups may have more than one leader.
What are the leader requirements?
Anyone who is interested in helping others can be a Walk With Ease leader! Training can be obtained through the Arthritis Foundation and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America for $89.
It helps to have a relationship with or an idea of a group, facility or organization that can provide space for the classes and help recruit participants. Other desirable abilities include:
- Empathy toward people with arthritis and related diseases, gained through personal or professional experience
- Interest in working with groups of people with arthritis and related diseases
- Experience in teaching physical activity classes and skill in group process and instructional techniques
- Desire and ability to help others
- Strong belief in the value of regular physical activity
Oregon State University Extension service can provide additional resources to Walk With Ease leaders in Oregon including technical assistance, marketing through our website, connections with current leaders and organizations through our state-wide listserv, and some program materials, depending on need. For more information, please contact us by email or phone, (541) 737-3173.
Additionally, limited funding is available to cover leader training costs for OSU Extension staff, volunteers, and organizations that partner directly with Extension Service staff. Please contact your local OSU Extension county office if you are interested in developing a Walk With Ease partnership.
About how much time does it take to conduct a Walk With Ease series?
About 30-to-40 hours: This includes the time it may take to complete the training, recruit participants, identify a walking site, prepare for classes, and lead the 18 one-hour sessions. Preparation time decreases after leaders become experienced leading the class.
How do leaders get trained?
An online training module is available for leaders to get certified. There is also an OSU-developed training program to support certified leaders.
Will the Arthritis Foundation provide a Walk With Ease leader certification?
Yes. Continuing Education Credits are also available.
What are the program costs?
The online leader training is $89 and includes 4 continuing education units. Participant workbooks (available in English or Spanish) are $11.95 each ($4.95 each when ordered in bulk of 100+) and can be ordered online or through your local Arthritis Foundation office. OSU Extension provides free participant workbooks to participants, organizations, and leaders depending on need. Please email or phone (541) 737-3173 for more information.
For OSU Extension staff and OSU Extension partners, all training and material costs, including participant workbooks, are covered by OSU if leaders agree to teach or co-teach at least one class within one year of their training. We will also provide water bottles as incentives upon receiving the participant’s registration and liability releases.
Optional expenses that are not covered include: Any leader honorarium/fees, facility fees, refreshments, other incentive items, Walk With Ease kits.
Is there are cost to participants for participating in the program?
OSU does not charge participants for their books or participation in the program. It is allowable for leaders to charge a small fee to cover the costs of renting a facility, or to use towards incentives.
What are the facility requirements?
Any host agencies offering the group classes should provide:
- An accessible site for the program consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and any reasonable accommodation that may be necessary to ensure that the program is accessible to people with disabilities
- A safe and accessible place to walk either inside (e.g., indoor track, gymnasium, mall, etc.) or outside (e.g., neighborhood, walking trail, etc.)
- Adequate general liability insurance (industry standard is $1 million)
- A signed program co-sponsorship form, documenting their understanding of their responsibilities
What is our risk for liability if someone is injured during a class?
The participant release form has been updated to provide protection if someone is injured, even if the walking program occurs outdoors. This protection is designed to minimize risk for Oregon State University, agencies that have signed a program co-sponsorship agreement, and OSU volunteer leaders. It is very important that every group participant sign the release form.