The Arthritis Newsletter

Spring 2014

Free and Low Cost Community Health and Exercise Resources for Arthritis

By Karen Tsui Edited by Erin Carruthers


Physical activity is an essential component of arthritis management. Exercise has been proven to decrease pain and improve mood, and it benefits every system in your body! Attending a community centre regularly can be part of achieving your activity goals. Many free and low cost community health and exercise programs are suitable for people with arthritis.


Some community centres have programs designed specifically for people with arthritis in mind.  They include water exercise programs and joint rehabilitation programs.  If a program has a registration fee that you can’t afford, be sure to ask if there is a subsidized access program (based on your income).


Community based joint replacement programs are designed for people who have not yet had surgery and want to keep as fit as possible, as well as for those who have had replacements or revisions of previous replacements. Regular participants of these types of programs may benefit from:


  • increased strength and muscle tone, flexibility and joint mobility, endurance and energy
  • increased independence and confidence
  •  improved posture, balance and coordination
  • joining a support network of others with new joints, or waiting for a new joint.


Exercise programs can sometimes decrease symptoms to the point that joint replacement surgery can be deferred, as well as improve surgical outcomes after a replacement.


If there aren’t specific arthritis or joint replacement programs available, or if you prefer to exercise on your own, low impact gym routines can be set up for you in consultation with the gym staff and your health care provider such as a physiotherapist.


Your community centre should also have information on other community health resources, or you can contact your provincial Ministry of Health (or look through the Ministry’s website) to see what is available.


The following list consists of free and low cost resources within BC and the lower mainland. If you live outside these areas ask your local community centre if they have an income based subsidy program.






Physical Activity Services at HealthLink BC no cost


Qualified exercise professionals (with undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in exercise science and advanced training in clinical exercise prescription) are available Monday to Friday 9am – 5 pm Pacific Time, to assist with all physical activity related needs. Call the phone line for FREE exercise and fitness advice regardless of age and medical condition.


  • Toll Free Number: 8-1-1


Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC no cost


If you have any questions about healthy eating, food, or nutrition, call 8-1-1 toll-free in B.C. to be connected to a registered dietician. This service is for general nutrition and food information. Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm Pacific Time, or leave a message after hours. Translation services are available in more than 130 languages.


HealthLinkBC Dietitians can also answer your questions by email through the HealthLinkBC Dietitian website.


Self-Management BC programsno cost


These are self-management programs administered through the University of Victoria for the BC Ministry of Health for arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and chronic disease management. For upcoming workshops go to the Self-Management BC website.



University of Victoria Active Choices Program (part of Self Management BC) –no cost


Active Choices is a personal telephone-support program to encourage regular physical activity. A telephone coach works with individuals through regular telephone contacts to develop an exercise routine customized to the needs, abilities and goals of each participant. Coaches teach self-management skills, such as goal setting and problem-solving, to help shape exercise habits.

The program involves a face-to-face introductory meeting followed by telephone contact (one week following the introductory meeting, four bi-weekly calls, and then calls once a month) for a six-month period. Counseling is tailored to the person’s readiness for change. Designed to help you set goals and develop a regular exercise habit.  This requires a commitment for 6 months.


Contact Angela at 604 522 1492 or by email: angela.activechoices@shaw.ca


Mary Pack Arthritis Program (Vancouver, Victoria, Penticton, Cranbrook) – no cost


Outpatient services are offered at Mary Pack Centres in Vancouver, Victoria, Penticton and Cranbrook . These centres provide access to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing, and social work, as well as education classes and land and/or pool exercise classes. The centres are operated through Vancouver Coastal Health with support from The Arthritis Society. Access requires a physician referral with confirmed diagnosis of arthritis.
For more information call:


  • Vancouver: 604 875 4040
  • Victoria: 250 598 2277
  • Penticton: 250 492 4000
  • Cranbrook: 250 426 5281





OASIS (Osteoarthritis Service Integration System through Vancouver Coastal Health) – no cost


Education classes are free to the public on osteoarthritis and exercise, as well as other topics such as pain management and weight management. Free Nordic Pole walking classes (poles provided) are run monthly at local community centres. OASIS has clinics in Richmond, Vancouver, and North Vancouver. For a full list of classes please visit the Vancouver Coastal Health OASIS website.


If you have osteoarthritis your doctor can fill out a referral form for an appointment with an OASIS physiotherapist for exercise and management recommendations. For information go to the OASIS clinics website.
Or call the clinics directly:


  • Vancouver: 604 875 4544
  • Richmond: 604 675 3944
  • West Vancouver: 604 904 6177


YMCA Access for All program subsidized fees


The YMCA fitness centres can subsidize membership fees for low income individuals.  You must bring proof of low income.  Call your local YMCA for details.


Waterworks and Jointworks exercise classes, The Arthritis Societylow cost


Safe, enjoyable exercises for people with mild to advanced arthritis.  Call the Arthritis Society for a class at a community centre near you.



Leisure Access Program, Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board subsidized fees


The Leisure Access Program allows Vancouver residents who are in financial need to access basic recreation programs at Park Board facilities at reduced cost.
If you are unable to participate in recreation programs because of limited income or financial resources, contact a community centre near you to discuss your options. In addition, there are loonie/toonie swim & ice skate sessions offered weekly throughout Vancouver.


Call 604 257 8497 or visit Vancouver Parks and Recreation Leisure Access Program


Healthiest Winner one time fee which can be subsidized


Healthiest Winner takes place at Hillcrest Aquatic Centre and Trout Lake Community Centre in Vancouver. Aimed at promoting healthier living through regular physical activity and healthy eating, this unique 16 week program partners VCH and the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board.


In addition to coaching from certified fitness leaders in low impact and graded physical activities, there are free educational workshops on healthy eating, stress management, and goal setting.
The cost of the program is $159 (leisure access card accepted). A flexipass is available with financial assistance if required through the Leisure Access Card.


Contact Kate Lee at bossykatelee@yahoo.ca


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