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By Dr. Richard Benson, associate medical director, Comprehensive Stroke Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center
As I turned in bed, the crispness in the air and pitter-patter of tiny droplets of rain on my bedroom windows aroused me from my nights slumber. I thought to myself, “What time is it? I have to get up?” The morning had finally arrived. Most Saturday mornings like this when I am not on-call, I toss and turn much longer, to make up my sleep deficit from the previous week. But not this day, I had to be at the National Arboretum before 9 a.m., to take part in a new community initiative at MedStar Washington Hospital Center called, “Walk with a Doc.”
“Walk with a Doc” is a national health and wellness campaign created to improve the connection between community members and health providers. My colleague, Dr. Patricia Davidson, a cardiologist and internist and I would lead each session, allow walkers to ask questions and make new friends. I was delighted to engage with the community this way, and take my message beyond the walls of exam rooms.
Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
A wealth of evidence has demonstrated that participating in regular physical activity like brisk walking is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and certain forms of cancer. In addition, increasing physical activity can improve mental health and memory, contributing to an overall sense of well-being.
Cardiovascular disease and stroke are the first and fifth most common causes of death in the United States. Even worse than death for some, stroke is the major cause of disability for adults. Therefore, the health burden for these two diseases combined is enormous. The sad part is that both are preventable. As the associate medical director for the Comprehensive Stroke Center at the Hospital Center, I have seen first-hand the devastation of stroke: lost lives, lost income, widowed family members, orphaned children, and work undone. So, I had to be at this inaugural event on time, despite the rain.
Taking Steps toward Better Health
When I arrived on site, colleagues from the Community Relations Department were already in place as well as ten to 12 community members. Briefly, I spoke about the cardiovascular benefits and other health benefits of moderate exercise. We began our one-mile walk around the beautifully landscaped area of the Arboretum. Two groups of walkers naturally formed based on the pace of each group. After the walk, Dr. Davidson spoke to the group and answered questions that were generated during the walk. Most participants were trying to gain a better understanding of the benefits of walking. Dr. Davidson shared how walking improved a person’s cardiovascular, health, cognitive health and could decrease the risk for stroke. The walkers were committed to improving their overall health. It was a congenial group and I met some great people from the community. An opportunity to get outside and get going with a group of like-minded people is the sole purpose of the program. I look forward to next week, same place same time, as we lace up our walking shoes and “walk with a doc” towards better health.
The Walk with a Doc event takes place on the first Saturday of every month, rain or shine, starting at 9 a.m. at the National Arboretum, located at 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C., 20002. The event is free and no registration is required. Just put on a pair of comfortable shoes and meet us at the park!
For more information, visit www.medstarwashington.org/community.
We are here to help! If you have any questions about the Walk with a Doc or other community relations programs email MedStar Washington Hospital Center at email@example.com.