New walking group gets community moving

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Kate Aley

Countless medical studies have proven that regular exercise is vital for health and mobility. Now Pontiac has one more opportunity to get up and go. Pontiac Walks (PW) is a new initiative created by the Groupe de ​Médecine Familiale (GMF) based in Shawville to encourage people to take regular walks.

Above, RN Katie Taylor is laced up and ready to hit the pavement.

Registered Nurse Katie Taylor is the facilitator for the Quyon area. She explained that walking is a terrific form of activity, especially for those with long-term health issues.

 “We tend to follow people with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes,” she said. “It’s a gentle exercise [for] these people who see huge physical benefits. They have better sleep, better glucose, their good cholesterol improves.”

 Taylor explained that current Health Canada recommendations call for a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week.  

“Ideally we encourage people to get started [walking] three times a week and we’re hoping that everyone will take the initiative to walk a bit more on their own,” she continued. “We’ve had a good response only three weeks in.”

The PW sessions are an easy circuit lasting 30 minutes. “We typically go up to Onslow [Elementary School] and back, but last week we went down around the river,” Taylor explained. “If it is dry, we can walk around the track at the Fair Grounds, depending on the circumstances. We are not hitting [a particular number of] kilometers or making marks at this point. If there is a good response, we will potentially create two groups walking at different speeds.”

PW will continue until to September this year and then be evaluated according to public response. Taylor hopes the project will become annual activity and start again in 2018 as soon as the sidewalks are clear. “We’ll evaluate if it has had a positive influence, and then decide over the winter what the programming will be for the next year.”

Taylor noted that participants often start to feel invested in the group, so the activity also becomes a way of community building.

“The people who come just walk in a group, just talk about the weather, about people’s plants,” she said. “It’s a form of socialization so it’s working on two levels. Plus there’s an added incentive because it is a social gathering so there can be a kind of accountability.”

Taylor said the RNs facilitating the walks feel it is an effective time for them to be out of the office and still have an impact on health.

“One nurse is monitoring blood sugars before and after the walk and is able to see a positive influence on blood sugar levels even in that short period of time,” she remarked. “It’s something we can do here; it’s just a finger-prick. It can become a weekly health check-up; people can also be weighed each time if they’d like.”

Although the walks are operated from CLSCs, the project is a GMF initiative, not of the Pontiac CISSSO.

This year there are four PW locations, currently limited to places where nurses are available. Walks also take place in Fort Coulonge at Thursdays at 10 a.m., Shawville on Wednesday at 9 a.m., and Otter Lake on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Participants in this area are encouraged to come to the Quyon CLSC on Clarendon St. (opposite Gavans’ Hotel) and register, in order to receive an evaluation form. All ages are welcome. Walkers should bring a hat, sunscreen, water and wear good shoes.

“Literally people can just come on Thursday at 9 a.m.,” Taylor said. “Just turn up and we’ll go from there.”

For more information on Pontiac Walks, call the Quyon CLSC at 819 458 2848.