The internet is peppered with stories of doctors rushing through appointments, not “hearing” patients’ concerns and even becoming insidious agents for “big pharma.” Despite these media negatives, there remains a steadfast sea of physicians dedicated to the first line of The Physician’s Pledge: “I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity.”
Dr. David Sabgir, a cardiologist in Columbus, Ohio, is one such physician. Recognizing that giving a patient a “stern talking to” in a clinical setting wasn’t helping noncompliant patients change their habits, he invited his patients to do something that might not only strengthen his relationships with them but also create an opportunity for them to improve their physical and mental health. The idea was radical yet simple: “Let’s go for a walk.”
On a beautiful spring morning in 2005, 100 of Dr. Sabgir’s patients accepted his invitation to “go for a walk.”
Since that day, an entire movement has emerged, and patients now find Walk With a Doc programs across the country. Coastal Pediatric Associates and Dr. Kelly Lipke head up Charleston’s own chapter with the “… mission of inspiring communities through movement and conversation.”
The program’s aim is also to help patients hit the targets of four pillars of health: physical activity, social connectedness, education and connecting with nature.
On the fourth Saturday of each month, Walk With a Doc’s medical professionals and patients meet at 9 a.m. at the Gazebo in Charleston’s Hampton Park for a quick five-minute chat on the medical topic of the day. When the walk begins, participants set their own pace and choose their own distance. The walk can be one to two miles, depending on one’s pace. Throughout the walk, no one is left behind; the speaker that day moves between groups to chat and socialize with walkers.
Dr. Lipke’s favorite aspect of these jaunts is the socialization.
“So far, we’ve had anywhere from 12 to 25 people join us, and the social connections made through the walks have been wonderful,” she said.
The social facet also appeals to Dr. Ana Arias-Pandey, the topic leader for the “Walking in Nature” walk. She marveled at how the program has brought people together.
“We had some grandparents who were regular participants of Walk With a Doc in their home state of Colorado. They looked up our chapter online and, as part of their visit to Charleston, brought their grandchildren to go on one of our walks. They also brought ideas from their chapter – to bring coffee and snacks – which we implemented at the next walk. It’s a community effort.”
Dr. Arias-Pandey is also pleased with the diversity in Charleston’s group of walkers.
“We have a very diverse and worldly group, with people from several countries and, as I recall, three different languages spoken,” she said.
Talks by these health-focused physicians have been broad and varied: “Walking in Nature,” “The Importance of Family Dinners,” “The Benefits of Walking to School” and “Stretching and Mindfulness” all have been discussed. The inaugural talk was, of course, Dr. Lipke’s “Why Walk.”
Though Walk With a Doc’s website will take you to a list of 100 scientifically supported reasons to “just walk,” the most championed reasons are:
Walking is low impact and safe for patients with joint or weight problems or other conditions.
Walking is free, as is the Walk With a Doc program.
Walking is a healthy way to spend time with friends.
Walking lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol.
Walking lowers the risk of depression and elevates mood.
Walking is an exercise that is completely adjustable to the patient, a gentle way to improve your cardiovascular health and possibly a way to reduce the need to find yourself in the physician’s office outside for anything other than a checkup.
The Walk With a Doc program is a safe, fun and free way to log those steps into your health meter and get a little closer to knowing the doctors who care for you. They enthusiastically welcome you to join them.
For more information: walkwithadoc.org/join-a-walk/locations/charleston-south-carolina.
By Amy Gesell