Go fast, go slow, just go!
Richard Kratche, MD, has been a walking doc since October 2009, when Cleveland Clinic started its Walk with a Doc program. Every Saturday morning, Clevelanders can bend a doctor’s ear while walking a 3-mile course around a woodsy reservation (or shopping mall, if it’s cold).
Walking with groups of six to 50, Dr. Kratche has fielded questions on everything from weight-loss techniques to coping with a relative’s depression.
“When I’m walking and chatting with people, it’s on a completely different level from an office visit. It’s very comfortable and very relaxed,” he says. Besides, it’s a pleasant way to work toward the 10,000 steps a day recommended for all Americans for good health and weight management.
“In the U.S., obesity is found in 34 to 35 percent of the general population. This does not count people who are overweight but not considered obese, which covers an additional 30 percent of our population,” Dr. Kratche says. “Compare that to the Amish, who average 13,000 to 14,000 steps a day. Just 3 percent of the Amish community are obese. There are, of course, other differences between the two cultures, but walking is a big one, and it’s telling.”
The benefits of walking and other forms of exercise go beyond burning calories. Your metabolic rate goes up with exercise and stays up for many hours thereafter, he says. In other words, you could be sitting around in the afternoon and still be getting the benefit of your morning exercise.
“If you lose weight through diet alone, the body actually slows down its metabolism to compensate for the lack of food,” he notes. Exercise helps to counter this metabolic slowing.
Cleveland Clinic began its walking program after Columbus, Ohio, cardiologist David Sabgir, MD, FACC, who created the Walk with a Doc concept, introduced it to Cleveland Clinic physicians. Dr. Kratche embraced the idea right away.
As the Medical Director of the new Twinsburg Family Health & Surgery Center, Dr. Kratche is excited about the possibilities of taking walks around the 80-acre property when the facility opens in July. And, he envisions one day developing a system of trails that would be available to patients, employees and the general public.
“The most important thing about exercise is that it’s not for athletes only,” he says. “All of us need it. Our bodies were made to exercise. The automobile has become so prevalent that we tend to drive everywhere. We’re the first people to have to build exercise into our lives or suffer the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle."
Those consequences include hypertension, rampant obesity and diabetes at epidemic proportions, he says.
“If you can walk, it doesn’t matter how slowly you go. The key is to exercise,” Dr. Kratche says. Take a cue from the Walk with a Doc participants, who walk at their own pace. “Some are flying ahead, some are trailing behind,” he says. “Even if you can’t go fast, you can still get going.”
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