2009-06-19 / Community

Rockaway Resident Helps People With Arthritis

By Noel Flego

Steven McCartney, a resident of Rockaway for almost 30 years, believes that it is "important to create a positive living environment that supports the needs of the residents." This is why McCartney has chosen to implement his arthritis programs in the Rockaways.

McCartney, a motivational speaker and fitness instructor for arthritis sufferers, has helped many patients cope with their disease during numerous workshops and presentations. His hands-on experience with these patients has inspired him to develop a "Top Ten" list of tips to help people with arthritis, as well as devise his own fitness programs and even make a health documentary about arthritis, "Arthritis: Up Close and Personal."

"Arthritis is the most debilitating disease, more so than even cancer or diabetes," McCartney believes.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, which is the swelling of the joints and includes painful symptoms such as swelling and stiffness in the affected areas. McCartney classifies arthritis as the most debilitating disease because in his experience, even when a person is suffering from other diseases along with arthritis, the symptoms and treatments for the other diseases can aggravate their arthritis.

McCartney has facilitated many arthritis workshops over the years, in senior centers, for the Parks Department and during the 2007 World Congress of Disabilities Expo. He has

worked with many patients who were suffering from other diseases in addition to arthritis.

"Their arthritis became the number one issue," he said.

This hands-on experience helped him develop his "Top Ten" tips for managing arthritis—he was able to combine what he had learned about the disease with feedback from people living with it. For example, his first tip is "Rehydrate," which he feels is a vital part of managing arthritis, and yet is ignored by the Arthritis Foundation. Many arthritis patients neglect to follow it as well. McCartney's tips will be discussed in detail by McCartney himself in a series of weekly columns appearing soon in The Wave.

In 2006 he produced the documentary "Arthritis: Up Close and Personal," a candid film about eight arthritis sufferers, all of whom McCartney had worked with in his workshops. Their stories touched him, and he was inspired not only by them but by his mother, who suffers from the disease.

"There were times so bad she couldn't get up the stairs," he said. "I wanted to help other arthritis patients realize they're not alone." He says he also wanted to create an educational tool he could use in his classes and workshops for arthritis sufferers. "Arthritis: Up Close and Personal" was where McCartney first debuted his "Top Ten" list, and the film was awarded Best

Health Documentary at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 2007; the trailer can be viewed on YouTube. com and the DVD is available through amazon.com.

Exercise is one of the most important parts to McCartney's "Top Ten" list and to managing arthritis pain, so McCartney has created an exercise program called Rockaway Walks, which is currently in its third year and will be held every Saturday at 8 a.m. on Beach 11 Street on the boardwalk, starting on June 13 and finishing September 12. McCartney is also working with Councilman James Sanders Jr. to create a "walking zone" at Golden Maple Academy, which would be the first of what he hopes will be many in New York. The "walking zones" would surround freestanding public schools and would be a way for children to exercise. Though McCartney focuses most of his attention on arthritis, he believes that his tips and programs can be used by anyone to get healthy. "The more educated you are, the more likely you are to maintain a healthy lifestyle," says McCartney. "My goal is to make people excited and get them involved in their exercise."

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