A handful of people recently shared an early evening stroll on the Hempfield campus of the J. Roy Houston Conservation Center.
During their 15-minute hike on trails and between plantings overseen by Penn State master gardeners, the group took the first steps towards a potential Westmoreland County chapter of the Walk with a Doc program.
The concept began in Columbus, Ohio in 2005 when cardiologist Dr. David Sabgir encouraged his patients to take action by taking them for a walk in a local park. More than 100 people showed up. Since then, the program has grown to include participants in 47 states and 38 countries.
Marie Fioravanti, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Director of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, led Westmoreland’s test run of Walk with a Doc on October 13 at the start of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County.
She said the program’s mission is to educate people about the benefits of walking and empower them to get involved.
The program lists at least 100 reasons for hiking, and Fioravanti only mentioned a few. “Walking a day will help with your stress levels and your heart rate,” she said. “It will also help increase your activity, and it will keep you young.”
As part of Walk with a Doc, participating groups are asked to take an organized walk at their own pace at least once a month, Fioravanti said.
“You can do as much as you can,” she said. “It could be walking your neighborhood or going to the dog park.”
Walk with a Doc sessions usually start with a brief presentation on a health topic and can include optional blood pressure checks.
During the local trial hike, Fioravanti led participants along part of the Westmoreland Conservation District Stormwater Trail. The trail includes several strategies for managing rainwater, including permeable walkways that allow rain to seep into the ground.
Visit walkwithadoc.org for more information on the walking program.