|A decade ago, two Texas physicians laced up their walking shoes to become the first in the state to adopt a new program to build healthier communities. Today that program, Walk With a Doc Texas, has an impressive footprint – more than 140,000 miles of walks among 135 doctor-led chapters in Texas communities.
Physicians organize Walk With a Doc Texas events and invite their patients, their patients’ families, and community members to join them. One early adopter of the program, Susan M. Pike, MD, of Round Rock, hosted her first walk in October 2012. She said the walks give her “a renewed sense of the value about what I can bring to the community as a physician.”
“I feel good when I’m done leading a walk; I’ve gotten some exercise, I’ve interacted with my patients and their friends, and I’ve made some new friends,” she said.
Walk With a Doc is a free program overseen by a national nonprofit organization to get people active and healthy. In Texas, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) backs the program with funding from the TMA Foundation with support from TMA Insurance Trust and Prudential. Walk With a Doc now extends across the globe with more than 500 chapters worldwide, including Walk With a Future Doc chapters led by medical students. The founders say the program is “inspiring communities through movement and conversation.”
Dr. Pike, a former TMA Foundation president, said the program is successful because it is a “simple exercise routine that drives us towards better health without stress.” Walk events occur monthly (some are more frequent) and typically last about an hour.
Texas leads the Walk With a Doc program with the most active chapters in the country, and regular participants keep coming back.
“It felt good to walk with a group and to meet new friends as well. Besides being such fun, those feel-good endorphins kicked in and I was hooked,” said one Paris, Texas, walker. “This kick-started us to begin a daily, simple, brisk walk, which we still do, eight years later,” said the woman, who’s attended Walk With a Doc Texas events with her husband since 2014.
“Less time inside and more time in nature has definitely improved our health and well-being,” she said.
Shauna Norman, MD, started a chapter in Austin earlier this year. She said the walks help her build stronger bonds with her patients and community members.
“It gives us an opportunity to meet with families outside the office in a more relaxed setting,” she said. Other physician hosts agree. They find the relaxed nature of the event entices walkers to chat with them about a variety of health topics. They say patients enjoy that compared with a visit in the clinic.
Dr. Norman encourages other physicians to start Walk With a Doc Texas chapters.
“If we want our families to listen to our advice about leading healthy lifestyles we need to ‘walk the walk’ with them,” she said. “Exercise is so important for our physical and mental well-being, and walking is an easy way to get started.”
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 56,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. The TMA Foundation, TMA’s philanthropic arm, raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of TMA and the Family of Medicine, including Walk With a Doc Texas. Walk With a Doc Texas is funded by a grant from the TMA Foundation with generous support from TMA Insurance Trust and Prudential. To learn more, visit the TMA Foundation website.
Walk With a Doc is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire communities through movement and conversation with physician-led walking groups. Walk With a Doc was started in 2005 by David Sabgir, MD, a board-certified cardiologist in Columbus, Ohio. To learn more, visit the Walk With a Doc website.