Context: Walking groups run by trained individuals, lasting under an hour in a natural environment, may be a cost-effective way by which to encourage sustainable changes in physical activity as well as foster companionship and a shared experience of wellness among participants. Walk with a Doc (WWaD) is a national program that provides a platform for medical professionals, including physicians and medical students, to deliver a short talk on a health topic prior to walking side by side with patients and community members.
Objectives: To evaluate the WWaD Chapter at Stony Brook following implementation, a questionnaire was designed utilizing a mixed-methods approach (i.e., containing qualitative and quantitative items) and administered to all attendees monthly prior to the health discussion. The aim of the questionnaire was fourfold: first, to obtain participant demographics; second, to obtain information on attendees’ own perceptions of their health status and the role exercise plays in their health; third, to gain data on physical activity levels, including lengths of exercise sessions and types of activities performed; and fourth, to learn more about attendees’ motivations and goals for participating in the walks.
Methods: We received an IRB exemption. Physician and medical student volunteers were recruited from Stony Brook University Hospital, a suburban tertiary care center, to oversee program logistics. WWaD was scheduled to take place on the third Sunday of every month for 1 h at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, New York. The event was advertised by volunteers to colleagues, peers, patients, and community members utilizing word of mouth, printed flyers, emails to listservs, and social media outlets. Each month, a physician volunteer oversaw a brief discussion (approximately 10 min in length).
Results: Over the course of the 5 month evaluation period, 91 individuals participated in the walks, including repeat attendees. After excluding duplicate or incomplete entries, data from 30 participants were included in this analysis. The majority of participants were female (n=24) with a mean age of 50 years (range, 23–98 years). Feedback on WWaD program elements was largely positive. Participants commended the monthly speakers for “informative talks” (n=6) on “interesting topics” (n=4), with plans to review the supplemental information in educational pamphlets following the walk (n=4). The brochures were also deemed “helpful.” Overwhelmingly, patients referred to the community gathering and team building aspects of WWaD as the “most enjoyable” aspect of the program (n=8) and a key driver for participation.
Conclusions: This mixed-methods study of the WWaD chapter at Stony Brook contributes to a growing body of evidence highlighting the value of walking groups as effective avenues for collaboration in producing accessible healthy behavior.