Successful US arthritis walking programme inspires UK study

Successful US arthritis walking programme inspires UK study

A new walking programme for adults with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, made popular in the US, is to be trialled in the UK for the first time, led by researchers from the University of Aberdeen.

Walk With Ease was developed by the Arthritis Foundation in the US and has been shown to reduce arthritis-related symptoms such as pain, stiffness and fatigue, as well as improve strength, balance and walking pace. 

The Aberdeen study hopes to establish whether people in the UK with these conditions are willing to take part in it and find the programme helpful.

Letters are currently being sent out from GP practices to potential participants in the Aberdeen area for the six-week community-based programme. Following an initial assessment of their mobility, participants will either receive the walking programme or a booklet outlining physical activity programmes in Aberdeen. Those who receive the walking programme will be given a guidebook and the option to either walk with a group or on their own.

All participants will be re-assessed after six weeks and be posted a questionnaire three months later to see what effects the programme has had on them. Some participants will also be asked to take part in an interview to discuss their experiences of being in the study.

The study also aims to find ways to make sure the programme fits within existing UK health and social care services. To achieve this the research team are working closely with patient partners and community organisations such as Sport Aberdeen, Aberdeen Sports Village, Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership, as well as national charity Paths For All to introduce Walk With Ease to people with arthritis ormusculoskeletal conditions.

The study is being funded as a joint working programme between ARUK and Pfizer Ltd, in partnership with the Chief Scientist’s Office of the Scottish Government and led by Dr Kathryn R Martin.

It pulls together a multidisciplinary research team from the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition and the Business School at the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with researchers from the University of East Anglia.

Dr Martin said: “Walk With Ease has proven extremely successful in the US at reducing pain, stiffness and fatigue while improving physical functioning for those who have taken part.

“We want to see if the ethos and logistics of the programme can be implemented in the UK. This study will examine whether or not individuals with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions living in the UK are willing to take part in such a programme and whether or not they feel it benefits them. We are starting with Aberdeen and hope that if successful it can be rolled out across the UK.”

Dr Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK, said: “At Arthritis Research UK, we know that exercise, such as walking, can help to both prevent and improve the symptoms of arthritis.

Much more needs to be done to help support people with joint pain to stay active. That is why our charity funds a number of studies focusing on exercise and movement, and we are pleased to be supporting the Walk With Ease study.” 

If you have arthritis or a musculoskeletal condition and are interested in finding out more about the Walk With Ease UK study, please contact Sarah Murdoch, study coordinator, at walkwithease@abdn.ac.uk.

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