News / Health

Walking Program Pairs Patients with Doctors

Shelley Schlender
DENVER, COLORADO - These days, Mary Halpin loves to walk.

“This walking has just given me life, you know?" she says. "To be in the air, and not to be an old lady at home, sitting in a recliner.”   

Six years ago, a serious disease made it impossible for the Denver retiree to walk much at all, even with her special, wheeled walker.

'Walk with a Doc'

But Halpin is now back to exercising, thanks to a program called, “Walk with a Doc.”

“I could walk maybe half a block,” she says. “Now I can walk, without having to stop and take a long break, depending upon the block, it can be between 10 and 12 city blocks.”

Denver’s Walk with a Doc program is part of a nationwide exercise effort in 60 other cities in 20 states.

Cardiologist Andrew Freeman, who organizes the free walks in Denver, has seen many cases of lung and heart disease improve with exercise and looks at Walk with a Doc as a great way for medical professionals to ‘walk the talk’ about good health.

“We started about two years ago and only had about 20 people show up.  Now we’re up to about 100 or more, depending on where we do it and when we do it,” he says. “There are no copays [patient costs] and it’s a fun day in an effort to show people that exercise can be medicine.”  

'Walk the talk'

Several other health professionals leave their white coats behind for the morning walk.

"We’re trying to break down barriers and make it so that a patient can find their doctor," Freeman says. "Talk to them informally and then watch them practice what they preach.”

The walks are held at least once a month in various parks around Denver. They start with free health screenings, including blood pressure readings and lung capacity checks.

There’s a brief talk about how to treat asthma and a stretching class. Then, when everyone starts to walk, Freeman encourages them to do it briskly.

“You want to be short of breath, sweating, if it’s warm enough and unable to complete a sentence," he says. "That’s how you know you’re working hard enough.  But check with your doctor first, obviously.”

Not everyone walks fast, but they do walk, and all have good reasons to be here.

“I have high blood pressure and my doctor said come do this and get myself a little more fit than I am right now,” said one man.

Seeing changes

“I started this in March," says a woman participant, "and since then I’ve lost two and a half [dress] sizes, just by walking.”

“Everyone seems to be passing us by," says Diane Kinsella, walking at a slower pace with husband Bill. "But we’re walking still, so that’s the important part.”

After a 30-minute circle around the park, the Kinsellas join walkers who’ve stopped to socialize, while others continue on for another round. Diane says this may be enough for now. Her husband had open heart surgery just two months ago, so she’s glad he’s doing well and that real doctors are walking with them this morning.

“I would like not to come back to this if my husband’s heart health would improve, and that’s our goal," she says. "So that we can walk just on our own, and we won’t have to always monitor his heart. He’ll be heart healthy all the time.”

Doctor Freeman says the program really does help people grow stronger, and become more confident about exercising.  He hopes these supervised outings motivate participants to eventually walk more than 150 minutes every week.

“The goal here again is to really help people understand that exercise is the best, freest and most effective medicine for almost any condition,” he says.

And it’s worked for many of these participants, who say they’re walking a lot more often these days.  That includes Mary Halpin, with her wheeled walker.

“Every time I come, I find myself stronger. I’m walking more," she says. "If I go to the grocery store, I’ll do more turns around the grocery store, I deliberately go up and down aisles. I do anything to keep moving. I don’t feel almost 75. I feel as good as I did when I was 50.”

That's why Halpin says she’ll be back next month, to walk with a doc.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs