DPH’s Worksite Wellness Team Launches Third Annual Walk with Ease Program

September 30, 2015

The Surgeon General’s call to promote walking and walkable communities is gaining popularity in public health. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Arthritis Foundation are partnering to coordinate the third annual Walk with Ease program.

The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk with Ease program is a six-week exercise regime that helps people with arthritis overcome discomfort associated with the condition. It also offers employees who are not current exercisers or those with low mobility an opportunity to start a physical activity regime.

The program has been proven effective in increasing balance, reducing pain and improving mental health, flexibility and overall physical health. Participants discuss wellness tips and walk outdoors or inside the lobby area of 2 Peachtree on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11:00 a.m.

E. Susanne Koch, MS, ACSM-HFS, PES, DPH worksite wellness coordinator, is eager to get the Walk with Ease program started again. Koch leads the weekly exercise sessions among participants from DPH and other state agencies located at 2 Peachtree.

Helen Smith, business analyst with the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), has osteoarthritis in both knees. Through Walk with Ease, she was able to to decrease her arthritis treatments.

“The program has greatly decreased my pain and allowed me to postpone knee replacement surgery,” said Smith. “I used to get cortisone shots in my knees every five months. Now, I only need them every eight months or so.” 

In addition to helping control her knee pain level, Smith’s overall health is better.

“Walking helps keep my stress level down. Walking keeps my numbers in a healthy range,” she said. “Even though I am obese, I do not have issues with cholesterol level, diabetes or blood pressure.” 

This program is for so many populations, not just those with arthritis. While Koch proudly coordinates the program for state employees, she is walking this year as part of her own rehabilitation.

“Having suffered a recent traumatic lower leg injury, I have found walking to be difficult and painful,” said Koch. “I will be participating to improve my walking capacity as it is sometimes difficult to start slow and increase gradually on your own. However, this is a critical component of successful exercise programs to prevent overtraining and injury.

As discussed in “Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities,” walking can provide positive public health benefits as it does not require special skills or equipment that sometime become barriers to people beginning an exercise regime.

In Georgia, the Arthritis Foundation hopes the program will inspire employees and residents statewide to participate in easy, no-cost physical activity options that provide lifelong health benefits.

“Ideally, this program would continue to be implemented as a flagship health intervention to educate, incentivize, motivate and help improve overall quality of life for employees and serve as an example of a safe, effective and reliable form of physical activity for communities across Georgia,” said Ayana Charleston, program director, Georgia Office of the Arthritis Foundation, Southeast Division.                                                          

To learn more about Walk with Ease or join the exercise program, contact Koch at Susanne.Koch@dph.ga.gov.  

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