Physical Activity Programs

Studies show that physical activity can reduce pain and improve function, mood, and quality of life for adults with arthritis. Physical activity is also important for the management of other chronic conditions that are common among adults with arthritis, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Several community-based, structured physical activity programs are proven to reduce arthritis symptoms and teach participants how to safely increase their physical activity to manage arthritis and other chronic conditions. Learn more about effective physical activity programs for yourself or to implement in your community.

Group of older adults walking together outside.
Recognized Programs

The physical activity programs listed below are proven to improve the quality of life of people with arthritis and are generally appropriate for adults of all ages and physical ability levels. State and national partners receiving CDC’s Arthritis Management and Wellbeing Program funding can disseminate these recognized programs.

Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP)

AFAP is a water exercise program created by the Arthritis Foundation and the Y-USA for people with arthritis and related conditions. The classes are conducted by a trained instructor and include joint range of motion, stretching, breathing, and light aerobic activities. The classes typically meet two or three times per week for one hour for six to 10 weeks.

Learn more about the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP).

Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP)

AFEP is a community-based recreational exercise program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. Trained AFEP instructors cover a variety of range-of-motion and endurance-building activities, relaxation techniques, and health education topics. All of the exercises can be modified to meet participant needs. The program’s demonstrated benefits include improved functional ability, decreased depression, and increased confidence in one’s ability to exercise. Classes typically meet two or three times per week for an hour.

Learn more about Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP).

Active Living Everyday (ALED)

ALED is a group-based program developed at the Cooper Institute that focuses on helping sedentary people become and stay physically active. Participants learn skills needed to become more physically active, such as identifying and overcoming barriers, setting goals, and creating an action plan. The program addresses a variety of moderate and vigorous physical activities, and provides background information that can be used to make personal decisions about the type and amount of exercise to pursue. Participants do their actual physical activity outside of the group setting. Classes meet once a week for 12 to 20 weeks. Trained and certified facilitators (instructors) teach the course in conjunction with a participant book.

Learn more about Active Living Everyday (ALED).

EnhanceFitness® (EF)

EnhanceFitness® (formerly Lifetime Fitness) is a community-based physical activity program proven to increase strength, boost activity levels, and elevate mood. EF instructors are trained and certified to offer this program that focuses on stretching, flexibility, balance, low impact aerobics, and strength training exercises. Typically classes meet three times a week for one hour.

Learn more about EnhanceFitness®.

Fit & Strong!

Fit & Strong! is a community-based physical activity and behavior change intervention offering stretching, balance, aerobic, and endurance exercises. Health education, problem solving and goal setting also are important components of Fit & Strong!. The program was designed to target sedentary older adults who are experiencing lower-extremity joint pain and stiffness and adults with osteoarthritis. Fit & Strong! classes are 90 minutes 3 times per week for 8 weeks and are delivered by a certified exercise instructor.

Learn more about Fit & Strong!

Tai Chi for Arthritis 

Tai Chi for Arthritis is an exercise program designed to improve quality of life for people with arthritis using 12 Sun Style Tai Chi movements. Learn more about Tai Chi for arthritis.

Walk with Ease (WWE)–Group

Walk with Ease (WWE)–Group is a community-based walking program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. WWE group sessions meet three times per week for 6 weeks.  Trained group exercise leaders begin each session with a pre-walk discussion covering a specified topic related to exercise and arthritis, followed by a 10- to 40-minute walk that includes a warm-up and a cool-down period.

Learn more about Walk with Ease.

Walk With Ease (WWE)–Self-directed

The Walk With Ease (WWE)–Self-directed program is a walking program developed by the Arthritis Foundation that can be done outside of a group setting, by an individual, using the WWE materials. This 6 week program helps people learn to walk safely and develop the habit of walking regularly.  WWE is offered in a group format or a self-directed format. In the self-directed format, people read the WWE book and walk on their own.

Learn more about the Walk with Ease program.

Promising Physical Activity Programs

Promising programs are structured, community-based programs for people with arthritis. The programs have some evidence to document their health benefits, but are still building the infrastructure necessary to support widespread use. State and national partners receiving CDC’s Arthritis Management and Wellbeing Program funding can disseminate promising programs along with recognized programs.

Fitness and Exercise for People with Arthritis (FEPA)

The Fitness and Exercise for People with Arthritis (FEPA) program is a group exercise program designed for individuals with arthritis. FEPA classes are designed to improve range of motion, balance, flexibility, strength and cardiorespiratory endurance while emphasizing joint protection and safety. The program may be modified for a variety of age and ability levels. Instructors must have a fitness certificate or bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or another related field and FEPA training.

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* The Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program remains a recognized evidence-based intervention for people with arthritis, but because it is already embedded in a sustainable national system and widely disseminated, CDC arthritis funding may not be used for construction, building pools, or equipment to support it.