Columbus-based “Walk with a Doc” connects patients with healthcare professionals, promotes exercise and social opportunities

Founded in Columbus in 2005, the Walk With a Doc program hosts events around the world, connecting physicians with their patients. Credit: Courtesy of Bryan Romey | Walk with a Doc

Columbus cardiologist Dr. David Sabgir told his patients to exercise, but when they didn’t take his advice, he instead gave his patients the option of walking with him.

After around 100 people showed up to walk with Sabgir and his family in a local park in 2005, interest sparked nationwide from other doctors. This idea turned into “Walk with a Doc” in 2009 – a non-profit organization that encourages physical activity through walking groups led by doctors which provides physical activity, health education and social opportunity to more than 500 communities in 47 states and 44 countries, according to its website.

Bryan Romey, “Walk with a Doc” program manager and Ohio State alumnus, said the free walks in the parks are accessible and anyone can participate.

“Some people worry that the walk is too long, too fast, but it’s very flexible,” Romey said. “Any age, any ability is welcome, you can walk as short or as long as you want, whatever the pace, whatever the distance.”

Romey said there are about 10 “Walk with a Doc” programs in Columbus.

The goal of the program was “to encourage physical activity and reduce the effects of a sedentary lifestyle,” according to the organization’s website. Since then, “Walk with a Doc” has evolved to not only include movement and exercise, but also to share walks with others.

Romey said that while “Walk with a Doc” focuses on the health benefits of walking, walks also have a social aspect.

“The social connection piece has really proven to be the glue that holds our groups together,” Romey said. “People really enjoy meeting new friends and having that responsibility with others.”

For those who couldn’t go out due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors, the organization is offering virtual walks that include vaccination education, home exercises and guidance for walking alone, according to its website.

Many Columbus programs will relaunch their in-person rides throughout May, after many were forced to go virtual during the pandemic, Romey said. People interested in joining a walk near them can find a group on line

Isabelle Castillo-Anderson, the organization’s community strategist and Ohio State alumnus, said she immediately felt welcome on her first walk. She said the marches have been a great tool for people to connect with each other as pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

“It’s been very helpful for the communities we work with to have these opportunities to come together with people who, you know, are also concerned about safety, who are also looking to reconnect with people in a safe and secure environment. accessible,” Castillo-Anderson said.

Castillo-Anderson said doctors will give a brief health talk on a topic of their choosing before the walk begins. She said these five- to eight-minute informal talks are designed to make the environment more comfortable than a serious office visit.

A person can choose from hundreds of “Walk with a Doc” communities worldwide. If an area does not yet have a community, health professionals can start a chapter with the help of a local doctor, according to the organization’s website.

Romey said as pandemic restrictions continue to lift, he looks forward to more rides in the future.

“We love that we were born right here in Columbus, so getting our Columbus ‘Walk with a Doc’ programs back on track, we’re very excited about that,” Romey said.

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