As a child, I loved being outdoors enjoying nature, hiking, running around, and feeling free. I even wanted to become a park ranger so I could encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature! Today, I’m a family practice physician at a community health center in Contra Costa, California, where I take care of a large number of children with obesity. In contrast to my childhood, I’m shocked to discover that many of my patients, including young children, rarely have a chance to go outside.
Technology and busy lives can leave us with little time to spend with children or tend to our personal health. But making simple changes to our daily routine can make a stark difference, and it turns out that walking outdoors is one of the best activities we can do to improve our health. Research shows us that being less physically active can contribute to obesity, heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers, but walking helps support a healthy weight, control heart disease and diabetes, keeps bones and muscles strong, and helps prevent falls.
The prescription for my patients is simple: eat healthy and spend time outdoors being physically active. For better health, adults need 150 minutes a week of exercise, and kids need 60 minutes of active play every day. It may seem like a lot, but every minute you are in motion counts! If my patients enjoy the activity, and invite friends and family to join in, they hardly notice that they are doing any exercise. My dream is that everyone will discover how much fun it is to be healthy and active.
One community program that can help people get started is the Intentional Walk in Stanislaus County, a community walking program that is running now through Saturday. The program is being led by The Modesto Nuts Baseball Club and a coalition of regional partners that support health and wellness. The Modesto Nuts have created a special walking route within John Thurman Field for people to enjoy before and during Nuts games. Walkers are invited to stroll the Modesto Nuts walking route, or find a place of their own that is convenient. No matter where they choose to go, they can track their distance through the Argus mobile app, and there is an opportunity to win prizes.
Walking can be a vital part of anyone's physical fitness routine. And, programs like the Intentional Walk can help people set goals and engage in a little healthy competition. Change can be hard, but there is a whole team supporting walkers like you, including the Modesto Nuts Baseball Club, the Argus walking app, the Heart Coalition of Stanislaus County, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, the Champions for Change Program – an initiative of the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch, and the City of Modesto. We would all like to encourage you to get started by taking a few steps with us. Don’t worry about being perfect! Just make small changes. Day by day they will add up to great health benefits.
— Dr. Cinnie Chou is a family medicine doctor in Pittsburg, California and is affiliated with Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. She is part of the Champion Provider Fellowship program. The Champion Provider Fellowship empowers, trains and supports doctors and dentists to use their expertise and respected voices to improve the health of communities through local policy, systems and environmental changes. This program is run by the California Department of Public Health and the University of California, San Francisco.