In an effort to help the community stay active and learn about health, the Madison Parks Department launched a program that recruits local doctors to lead walks in various parks in the Madison area.
“Walk with a Doc” is a national program that Madison officials implemented locally to take advantage of the city’s great parks and health care systems, Madison Parks Department spokesperson Laura Whitmore said.
The once-a-month program works with the University of Wisconsin, Physicians Plus and Dean Clinic to find doctors to lead the walks. Dr. Laura Houser, a pediatrician at UW Health, led the program Sunday and educated walkers about how to stay fit during winter.
“I was really excited to be part of the program,” Houser said. “I think it’s a great idea. It got a lot of different people together and active.”
Houser said most people find it more difficult to stay active during the winter because of the cold weather. She cited strategies to combat the issue, such as getting involved in winter sports or playing outside in the snow with children or pets.
She added there are indoor activities that can help people stay fit in the winter as well, like going to shopping malls or local gyms. Getting up and walking during commercial breaks while watching television is another way to get exercise in the winter, Houser said.
So far, the program has drawn between eight and 50 people, Whitmore said. Every session has been attended since the program began three months ago.
Whitmore said she liked the idea of the program because walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise and added it is a great opportunity to introduce citizens of Madison to new parks since there are 265 in the city.
“It’s so simple and doesn’t require anything but a pair of walking shoes,” Whitmore said. “You can do it any time [in] any type of weather, and the benefits are so immense.”
Whitmore added the Parks Department is working on setting up some walks that people in wheelchairs or that use walkers can attend.
UW Health spokesperson Kathy Schultz said it is a great way for doctors to walk with their patients and have fun in a healthy way. Schultz expressed her excitement about the walk that took place in October, which featured conversations on organ donation. She said the doctor talked to people about organ donation and disproved common myths associated with it.
“I think it’s almost a responsibility of people who work in the health care field to be a good example and lead by example,” Schultz said. “It’s a great way to meet new people and learn new things.”