Educate. Exercise. Empower. Why Walk With a Doc? Initial findings suggest the importance of social connection

Stephanie Van Nortwick, Macy Haight, Carly Sweat, Jarrett Phillips, Natasha Bray

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: It is widely known that regular physical activity is important to overall health and well-being. In Cherokee County access to exercise opportunities is not widely available compared to the State of Oklahoma and nationwide. To combat lack of access and provide health education, a Tahlequah chapter of Walk with a Doc (WWAD) began in July 2023 in partnership with Oklahoma State College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation, Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers, and Cherokee County Active Living and Transportation Committee. WWAD is an international nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by board-certified cardiologist Dr. David Sabgir, MD. Dr. Sabgir envisioned a program that provides communities with recurring opportunities to engage in physical activity, while creating an inclusive environment for conversation with local medical providers. Our objective is to investigate the reason individuals chose to participate in the program and initial impacts to inform future health program design.

Methods: Adult (18+ years of age) participants of WWAD Tahlequah were emailed an electronic RedCap survey. The 41-question survey included demographics, health information, physical activity levels, reasons for and impacts from participating in WWAD, along with questions pertaining to loneliness, hope, and quality of life. Format included multiple choice, checkboxes, sliding scales, and free text. This is the initial survey collection of a longitudinal study.

Results: The survey yielded 24 respondents, predominantly females (n=17) across various age groups ranging from 18-75 yo; the largest age group was 26-35 yo with 8 respondents. 50% of respondents (n=12) entered this WWAD program already meeting the AHA weekly physical activity recommendation of either 150 minutes of moderate-level activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-level activity. 100% of respondents are satisfied/very satisfied with the program and 66.7% (n=16) declared their physical activity levels have increased since starting the WWAD program. When asked to mark any choice for the reason(s) they chose to participate in WWAD, the top 3 choices that received a yes from over 50% of respondents included: “to spend time outside” (n=18), “to enjoy the company of others” (n=15), and “to support a friend/family member” (n=13). Questions pertaining to participating for physical activity reasons yielded “no” from the majority of respondents (i.e., “to reach my physical activity goals”, ‘no’ n=19, 79%).

Majority of respondents agreed/strongly agreed that the WWAD program provides social connectedness and improves energy levels, to include: “gives me a chance to socialize” (n=23), “I feel more connected with members of my community” (n=22), and “Increases my energy levels after the group walks” (n=22).

Conclusions: Results from our initial survey indicate participants value the opportunity to socialize that WWAD presents over achieving physical activity goals. These results may be biased due to small sample size and participants completing daily physical activity goals outside of WWAD. Moreover, a recent declaration from the U.S. Surgeon General of the ongoing Loneliness Epidemic supports our findings of Americans seeking community with others. Socialization aspects of group exercise might be advantageous to consider and capitalize on when designing public health programs aimed at improving health outcomes.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 16 Feb 2024
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2024
- Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, United States
Duration: 13 Feb 202417 Feb 2024


Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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