Posted by Kathy Burnes

Easy Steps Hugging ExerciseDid you know that giving yourself a hug is just one of the many easy steps you can take for your everyday health? It helps relax the shoulders, neck, and chest area. Or a simple stretch of the hand, arm, and shoulder can ease stiffness and swelling in fingers and wrists caused by arthritis.

More than 500 older adults living in apartment settings in Malden, Brookline, and Framingham now have access to Easy Steps for Your Everyday Health. This unique program was developed with and for seniors participating in the JF&CS Aging Well at Home program. The goal is to get participants – from the couch potato to the physically active – to make a habit of incorporating exercise into everyday life.

Participants receive their own book, written and designed by Easy Steps instructor Judy Scribner-Moore, with simple exercises that help maintain and improve overall function. Four clinics led by Judy help participants practice exercises and tailor them to their particular circumstances. The value and ease of exercises are reinforced in multiple ways – each participant receives the booklet with simple instructions, clear diagrams, and a "Did You Know?" fact to highlight specific benefits of each exercise.

Pages from the book are posted around an apartment building – by the mailbox or in the laundry room – as reminders of how easy it is to incorporate the exercises into everyday life. Participants also receive neon stickers that can be placed around the apartment as reminders and post-its that can be used to easily find favorite exercises. Weekly logs are available for those who like to track their progress.

The program has an impact on attitudes and behaviors that are sustained over time. In a recent telephone survey eight weeks after the program, the majority of participants continued to do several exercises daily or a few times a week. One participant said, "I'm doing the exercises five times a week. I do the leg lift, push-ups, heel lifts, palming eyes, stretch calf, arms over head, hand on hip; I do these especially before walking." Another participant said, "I wasn't sure how this program would help me, but I learned a lot and feel like I will be able to continue these exercises at home. Thank you very much."

Easy Steps for Your Everyday Health, an initiative of JF&CS Aging Well at Home, is funded by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, The Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and private donors.

Kathy BurnesKathy Burnes is Project Manager of the JF&CS Geriatric Institute, which focuses on developing and implementing projects that translate research into community-based services. Prior to coming to JF&CS in 2007, she worked as a senior research associate at Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship, and at the National Center on Women and Aging at Brandeis University. Kathy also worked for AARP and Operation ABLE of Greater Boston. She has a BA from the University of Michigan and a MEd from Northeastern University.