Walk your way to health reform

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photoKeith Bachman, MD, Kaiser Permanente

For more information about the health benefits of walking, plus tips on walks and walking groups in your community, go to everybodywalk.org.

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy.” — Charles Dickens

As a physician, I can’t think of a better treatment plan or “prescription for health” for my patients, and my community, than walking.

It’s easy, and it takes virtually no skill and no equipment.

Just get up, lace up, and start moving.

Research shows that moderate physical exercise, such as walking, is incredibly healthful. Walking is also great medicine for many of the health conditions for which my patients consult me regularly: Walking lowers blood pressure, helps manage blood sugars and excess weight, and improves mood in people with depression. For older individuals, it strengthens bones, improves balance, improves digestive health, and can even improve memory. Regular activity prevents diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

I have seen my patients who walk at least 30 minutes most days stop medications and improve their health. Walking is more fun, and definitely less expensive, and has fewer side effects than any medicine I can prescribe.

Beyond that, walking is good for the environment. By substituting walking for driving for just one errand a day, or walking children to school rather than driving, we can decrease fossil fuel use and improve the environment.

We are lucky in the Portland-Vancouver area to be able to get out for most of the year to enjoy our beautiful surroundings. We have terrific public parks that make for a great destination for a walk.

So whether you are interested in improving your own health, that of your family, the broader community, or the environment, just take the first step—lace up your shoes or boots and take a walk today!

Keith Bachman, MD, is a primary care physician and weight management specialist practicing with Kaiser Permanente in Portland. He serves as a member of the Oregon Health Improvement Plan Committee and previously served as a member of the Portland Public Schools Wellness Advisory committee.