Cycling Across America for Arthritis Awareness

Tom Baltes and Eric Uhlberg pose for a photo during the first leg of Baltes' journey across the United States.

For Tom Baltes, a love of cycling runs in his family. Unfortunately, arthritis does, too. Tom has osteoarthritis (OA) in his left knee and lower spine. His brother has OA as well and has had two hip replacements. Two of his other siblings have also been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

At 60, Tom decided to challenge himself with a bike ride across the United States to increase awareness of arthritis and raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. 

Tom set out on his journey east from Seaside, Oregon and finished the 4,200-mile ride through 16 states (and Canada!) in Portland, Maine. His wife Louise served as his support person, driving their truck and 23-foot trailer to keep a kitchen and bathroom nearby on the route.  “Louise and I feel like our walking and biking helps us fight off the debilitating effects of arthritis,” says Tom, who raised $30,000 for the Arthritis Foundation during the ride.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that adults with arthritis be active, maintain a healthy weight, protect their joints, learn self-management skills, and talk to their doctor to control arthritis and manage its symptoms. Being physically active can reduce pain, delay arthritis progression, and improve function, mood, and quality of life for adults with arthritis.

“Physical activity is a simple and effective way to reduce arthritis pain without medication. It is also beneficial for managing other chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or obesity that commonly occur among adults with arthritis.” said Craig Thomas, PhD, Director of the Division of Population Health at CDC.

Tom is confident that the Arthritis Foundation will continue to pursue a cure for arthritis. He is happy to help by raising money and awareness. He says “Each mile I ride across America reminds me how vital the Arthritis Foundation’s work is to so many, including my own family.”

Until a cure is found, CDC recommends participation in proven physical activity and self-management education programs available across the country, in locations like local parks and neighborhood Y-USA branches.