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Walk-with-a-Doc invites area locals to spring into action on National Walking Day

Dickinson Press - 4/5/2023

Apr. 5—DICKINSON — As spring brings warmer temperatures, Western Edge residents are eager to get active outdoors, but local gyms remind us that good health requires discipline and consistency. Fortunately, walking is a simple and effective way to stay fit and prevent relapse into sedentary habits. Entities like the West River Community Center and other area gymnasiums are quick to note the discipline and consistency necessary for good health and there are few better activities than walking to help people find their way to fitness, and today — April 5 — is National Walking Day.

Walking also is one of the best ways to avoid the recidivism of laziness, and encourages participants towards an easy-going and underrated fitness-building process that positively affects almost every system in the human body, from cardiovascular and respiratory to skeletal and immune (among others).

With all that in mind, the Walk-with-a-Doc program — which is in its first year of existence and only has been active for a couple of months — is a perfect way for locals to segue into spring and summer in a mellow and non-competitive fashion. The group, which is the only Walk-with-a-Doc chapter in North Dakota — is looking for new members and hopes to build not only the bodies of participants but also the options for those who need a lower-stress way to get in shape.

They are led by area physician and Army National Guard member Dr. Volney Willett, who runs the First Light Lifestyle Medical Clinic at 30 7th Street W., Suite LL-50 in Dickinson. Willett is a family medicine doctor in Dickinson who received his medical degree from American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than two decades. He said that he learned of no local chapter of the organization, and has long encouraged people to take up walking for a variety of purposes, from rehabilitation to the entry-level aspects of physical fitness.

"I found them at a conference for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and had heard about them before, so as we were talking they said they didn't have a chapter in North Dakota and we'd love to have one there," Willett said. "And the whole purpose of my practice is to promote lifestyle and lifestyle changes to help people improve their health and prevent and treat chronic disease.

"So I said I would give it a try."

The first few meetings have been indoors, with the weather being uncooperative. But the organization gets together on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month — with the next walk taking place this Saturday, April 8 — as a way to hopefully engage people with an opening discussion about fitness and diet and the remaining time devoted to either running or walking either indoors — if necessary — or, more-hopefully, outdoors to enjoy the weather.

"The goal is to do it outside," Willett said. "Maybe we can go outside this Saturday if the weather kind of warms up and we'll go and walk around the park, there."

There is no particular goal or distance that is desired, Willett said, and the program has the effect of motivating people to meet new friends and then spur them to individual goals and consistency. "You can walk at your pace and run if you want and we just want to all get together to walk either in a big group or individually; it doesn't matter; it's just getting people out there as a community and exercising," Willett added.

"According to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Think it doesn't do any good? Think again. Walking is low impact and easier on the joints than running. It is safe — with a doctor's okay — for people with orthopedic ailments, heart conditions, and those who are more than 20% overweight," the group's Web site says. The activity also has the added benefit of offering to include other groups of people like friends or loved-ones and even furry friends like dogs — and it's healthy for the dogs, too.

The program was originally developed by Dr. David Sabgir in Columbus, Ohio in 2005 and has chapters across the globe. The program is designed for anybody and everyone to learn about the appropriate steps they can take towards a healthier lifestyle and always is done at the individual pace of the participant. One-hundred people showed up for the first walk in 2005, and the organization has grown by thousands of participants and hundreds of chapters since.

"One good thing about walking is that almost everyone can do it, it gives you almost the same amount of benefits as other cardiovascular exercises like running, it's better for your bones than running — because you actually build more bone health when you're walking," Willett said. "And so it's one of those activities that if you do it for the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week it has some of the best benefits for cardiovascular disease prevention, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia and it helps with stroke prevention and to maintain body weight and decreases metabolic syndromes like diabetes.

"You pretty much can't find a better general activity than just to go for a walk."

West River Community Center is located at 2004 Fairway Street in Dickinson and can be reached at 701-456-2070. For more information about the Walk-with-a-Doc program at the center, please visit


to join the local chapter. Waivers to participate in the Walk-with-a-Doc program can be signed online or the day of the events.


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