Walking for the health of it

With spring finally seeming to have arrived, people can start moving their exercise routines outdoors, and one way to do this is with the Doc Walk that will take place on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Oak Park. The walk will serve as the kickoff for Trinity Health’s “Exercise is Medicine” month. Participants are asked to gather in the parking area near the Nature’s Prayer sign, where the Farmer’s Market sets up during the summer.

Exercise is Medicine urges healthcare professionals to treat physical activity as another vital sign, like blood pressure or heart rate. It was founded by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Association.

Sports medicine physician Dr. Dawn Mattern established the Doc Walk to encourage healthcare providers and the public to join together in promoting awareness about the benefits of walking and exercise when it comes to treating disease and keeping people healthy.

Mattern said there’s good disease care, but they need good health care. Exercise is better than any medication on the market, she said, and Exercise is Medicine focuses on exercise and talking to patients about what they’re doing to keep themselves out of the doctor’s office.

“If you look at the causes of death like tobacco use and poor diet and lack of activity, exercise impacts everything we do,” Mattern said. “I challenge people to think of one disease where exercise wouldn’t help.

“Exercise is the first line of treatment for so many diseases. Our goal is to encourage physical activity in people of all ages and reverse the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.”

Mattern recommends that people find 30 minutes in each day of doing a physical activity, and everything counts, such as cleaning the house or parking farther away and walking extra.

The Doc Walk is user-intensive, but the goal is to get people walking for 30 minutes, Mattern said. People can walk at their own pace or walk longer than the 30 minutes. Participants at the Doc Walk gather as a group for the first few minutes and then everyone starts walking.

“It’s sad that medical doctors think of exercise as secondary,” Mattern remarked. “Less than 40 percent of family physicians across the board in the U.S. meet the physical activity requirements.”

Motivation comes from tangible things like a drop in clothing size and the patient needs to trust in their doctor that it will happen, she explained. You just have to push yourself to get your 30 minutes of activity, Mattern added.

“For every 90 minutes of walking you’ve done, you’ve added two minutes to your life,” she said.

Another benefit of keeping your exercise level at 30 minutes a day will also decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, Mattern said.

“It’s just 30 minutes of your time for yourself to take a breath from your busy life,” she said.

The Doc Walk has gotten bigger every year and Mattern is hoping for a good-sized crowd this year. The Doc Walk was an idea Mattern had to celebrate Exercise is Medicine Month in May.

“In North Dakota, it’s hard to start a New Year’s resolution in January, so May is an easier time to start,” she said.

Participants in the Doc Walk have said the walks are fun and a good time to go out and walk with folks, as well as to meet new people. Mattern said she likes to have the opportunity to talk to her patients outside of her office. It’s nice to do the recommendation of the daily 30 minutes of activity and not just tell other people the recommendation, she added.

“The Doc Walk gets people off the couch,” Mattern said. “And I’ve ordered a nice, sunny night for May 1. I want to show people that they don’t have to go to a gym, that (physical activity) can be as easy as walking in the park.”