When it comes to health, these Comox Valley docs walk the walk

About 23 people took steps toward a healthier lifestyle last week during the first Walk With Your Doc event in the Comox Valley.

HIGHLAND FAMILY PRACTICE doctors walked the walk Friday with their patients

HIGHLAND FAMILY PRACTICE doctors walked the walk Friday with their patients

About 23 people took steps toward a healthier lifestyle last week during the first Walk With Your Doc event in the Comox Valley.

Doctors from Highland Family Practice in Comox encouraged their patients to walk with them Friday, walking one kilometre around Comox Marina to emphasize the benefits of being active.

While it was the first time the clinic held a Walk With Your Doc event, this was the second year it has taken place in the province.

An initiative of the B.C. Medical Association (BCMA), it’s meant to encourage inactive patients to get moving and to emphasize the value of physical activity.

“It’s got a fairly obvious cause — we want everybody to be out and physically active,” Dr. Trevor Shoesmith told the group before the walk began. “As family doctors, we’re all about primary prevention. There’s a lot of research to confirm that exercise is going to help us prevent disease.”

There are seven doctors at the clinic, and five were able to participate in Friday’s walk.

Dr. Theresa Wilson hopes they will involve other local medical clinics in the future.

Wilson believes inactivity and an unhealthy lifestyle is an epidemic across the country.

“We see how much benefit exercise has in so many aspects of health, prevention of heart attacks and stroke, cancer, and also treatment,” she said. “We’re always looking to encourage people to be more active. At the same time, we recognize people are busy, and their lives are stressful. We felt this was a good way to show our support and offer encouragement, not just talk about it.”

Wilson felt that actually walking with their patients and building those relationships was an important part of the event.

“As family physicians, we do strive to be part of people’s support system,” she said.

Trish Sweeney and Marla Doty, who work at Courtenay Medical Clinic, were happy to participate in Walk With Your Doc.

Doty was encouraged to participate by her doctor, and they both came because of health reasons and to support the local doctors.

“They’re doing a good thing; this is a very good thing,” said Doty. “I’m sure everyone here has health issues, and walking is the safest for anybody. I think mostly walking is your No. 1 safest exercise at any age, any weight, any height. Anyone can do it, even if you’re in a wheelchair.”

They both enjoyed getting out with other people — and the sunshine didn’t hurt either.

“You’re more motivated also when it’s a new group,” said Sweeney. “Time flies by when you are chatting away.”

Sweeney and Doty were impressed with the doctors for coming out and walking with their patients.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said Sweeney. “It’s good for them to inspire their patients.”

“That’s where family practice comes in,” added Doty. “These people are all family. They care about you. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t care, and you’ve got some good doctors standing around here. It puts the ‘family’ in family practice.”

Carol Saunders hadn’t planned on participating in Walk With Your Doc, but her husband, Barry, put her name down because he figured they both needed to walk.

“It’s nice to see others and meet people and bring the little dogs,” she said.

She thought the event was a great idea.

“Once you get out, you realize the benefits, so it’s good,” she said.

Saunders also appreciated the chance to see the doctors outside of their office.

“It’s really nice,” she said. “They just smile and are the same as everyone else. They’re not put on the spot either — it gives them a breather and time to relax with everyone.”

When the walk was over, Shoesmith thanked everyone for coming and encouraged everyone to exercise with family and friends and choose activities that are fun.

“The whole point of exercise is it’s not a means to an end; it’s something you should be enjoying, and a side benefit of that is the health benefits,” he said.

Last year, 52 doctors in 24 communities across the province helped their patients and members of their community become more aware of their health and fitness by hosting the first-ever Walk With Your Doc event.