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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs