Walking instead of medication
“Walking is physically good for you”
Exercise is good for you. Walking has a positive effect on lots of complaints, such as diabetes, burn-out, anxiety disorders and depression, but also alleviates arthritis and all kinds of joint complaints. GP Matthijs van der Poel from Rotterdam summarises it like this: “We often prescribe people medication, but walking can be just as beneficial if not better for their complaint. Just one in five people achieves the norm of thirty minutes of moderate to intense exercise a day. That’s why I provide a good example and go walking twice a week at 11.30 a.m. with a group of patients that want to join me. The practice nurse and practice manager join us too if they can. Patients really enjoy it, some look forward to it the whole week. Walking is physically good for you and also promotes social contacts.”
More than just walking
Indeed, the patients confirm that they enjoy the walk, not only the walking. Despite the fact that it is a miserable day in May, eight patients have joined the walk, but some days there are eighteen or nineteen. They have different reasons for participating in the walk but the word ‘convivial’ crops up repeatedly. Other comments include: “It’s a great way to completely clear my head for a while. You often walk purposely from A to B, but now it’s just about the walk.” “It’s more than just walking, you also get to know people.” It is also stressed than everyone can walk at his or her pace. It is not a competition. Van der Poel has found an exercise buddy (from Avant Sanare) for one of the patients that actually wants to walk more frequently than twice a week but doesn’t dare do so alone.
“Fortunately, I am not the only one issuing a prescription for walking,” says Van der Poel. Dozens of GP practices in Rotterdam are now following our lead. I receive lots of positive reactions from specialists and fellow GPs. The youngest generation of GPs in training are bringing the importance of exercise to the study programme on their own initiative. In short: the time is right. And it’s logical, because walking is healthy for everyone!”
Matthijs van der Poel, GP in Rotterdam and co-founder of Stichting Looprecept (Prescription for Walking Foundation)