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Exercise can help arthritis sufferers feel better and lower health care costs


June 21 - More than 1.8 million Oregonians - about half the adults in the state - suffer from arthritis or chronic joint conditions. Of those, more than 40 percent say it limits their activities and productivity. that means arthritis is not only painful, it's costly. Total health care costs, including loss of work and lower productivity, are estimated to be about $1.6 billion annually in Oregon, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doris Lilly of Bend, who is in her 70s, knows first hand the ups and downs that come with arthritis. "I call them valleys when I'm not doing so well," she said.

But Lilly, like more than 700 people in Oregon, discovered there is a program that can help.

Doris Lilly
Lilly teaches others how to alleviate pain through the Arthritic Exercise Program.

Lilly, who has worked for decades in the fitness arena, likes the program so much she has become a master trainer, instructing others how to lead the exercise classes.

The Oregon Health Authority's Public Health Division provides an Arthritis Exercise Program. This program works to keep people with arthritis moving more freely and without pain - and in turn helps lower health care costs associated with this disease.

"I see people come in with a walker or a cane and we work on different walking patterns. Then, all of a sudden, they are walking without holding onto something. Their balance and strength have improved," Lilly said.

The program helps gets people moving and by doing so, allows them to better manage and alleviate their pain. Physical activity can bring down health care costs - research shows a 13 percent decrease in the use of emergency rooms for people who participate in this program. Research also shows decreased pain, decreased depression and an increase of functional ability.

OHA contracts with the Oregon Arthritis Foundation to conduct the classes, thanks to a grant from the CDC.

"Physical activity is the arthritis pain reliever. Exercise is one of the simplest and most cost effective treatments for arthritis," says Danna Hastings, OHA's chronic disease program manager. "People feel better both physically and mentally. Anyone - at any age - can benefit."

Learn more about the Oregon Public Health arthritis program online.