Guysborough doctor walks with patients to promote health

Donna Abraham, Isabel Levangie, Mary Richard, Brian Richard took part in Walk With a Doc.
Donna Abraham, Isabel Levangie, Mary Richard, Brian Richard took part in Walk With a Doc.

Doctors say exercise is part of a healthy life, but do they practise what they preach?

Dr. Barbara Bell and the primary health care team certainly did this past summer. For six weeks from July to August, three times a week, they invited the community of Guysborough to join them for a 30-minute walk at noon.

“We were just trying to find out ways where we could get our population more active and moving,” said Stephanie Hart, a family practice nurse who works with Bell. “If we were encouraging people to be active, it was important for us to be active as well.”

The idea of health care providers walking with their patients first began in Ohio in 2005 and has since spread across the world largely under the name Walk With a Doc.

Bell heard about the idea at an Exercise is Medicine Canada workshop in August 2017, and with the newly constructed Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex that opened in June 2018, she and the Guysborough primary health care team decided to partner with the municipality to organize a walking program.

Mary Richard, a patient of Bell’s who suffers from chronic back pain and uses a rolling walker, saw Bell advertising the program at the grand opening of the lifestyle complex.

“I thought to myself ‘I wish I could do that’. I had three major back surgeries but I still wanted to get outside and walk, especially whenever I saw someone walking by our place,” said Richard.

With encouragement from her husband Brian and family, she decided to take part.

“I must admit it wasn’t easy; I walked at a snail’s pace,” Richard said. “But I do feel better with a bit more flexibility and mobility than I had before I started.”

On average, 11 participants showed up to each walking session. To prove that every step counts, Hart marked the total distance walked (618.8 km) onto a map of Nova Scotia. By the end of the 18 sessions, the group had taken 320,496 steps, or 1,547 laps of the Steve Smith Walking Track.

“The first time I was only able to do a few laps, but I was doing about 11 laps by the end of it,” commented Kaylin Delorey, a secretary at Anita Foley Health Services Centre who took part in the program.

At the program’s end, many participants committed to continue walking the track.

Hart said the success of the walking program means it will be held again next year, albeit in the spring or fall to bypass the scorching summer heat. The details will be printed in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough newsletter.

The primary health care team in Guysborough can talk the talk, and walk the walk! Anyone interested in joining Walk With A Doc can visit to find a walking group near them.