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Why I Walk Stories

Inspiring Stories

Stories from Northeast Iowa medical practitioners and walkers that will inspire you to make some tracks of your own.

Practitioner Stories

Northeast Iowa Physical Therapist Dennis Keefe Values the Impact Walking Can Have

As a Physical Therapist at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, Dennis Keefe recognizes just how impactful walking is when it comes to the quality of life for his patients. He says one of his main goals is to get patients exercising as part of their treatment plan. “I recommend walking because it is very accessible; all you need is to get your shoes out and find a good place to go. The benefits to my patients are physical as well as mental.”

Dennis regularly sees patients that need walking to help improve mobility, address sedentary lifestyles, and help with hypertension and diabetes. Emotionally, he says it can “reinforce connections with family, friends and others.”

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder he recommends other providers promote walking for their patients too. “It is one of the simplest and most effective ways to get exercise and be active.” As a strong advocate for the health benefits associated with walking, he always tries to talk to his patients about getting starting with a walking routine.

Dennis doesn’t just talk the talk though – he also walks the walk! As a resident of Decorah, he enjoys walking a loop downtown and home on a regular basis with his family. “Decorah is an active community with great trails, access to the Upper Iowa River and lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation.” He says he also takes advantage of PalisadesPhelps ParksTrout Run Trail, and Ice Cave Road for walking and exploring.

Here at WalkNEIowa.org, we’re so thankful for all that Dennis is doing to support walking and connecting in this corner of the Driftless!

Northeast Iowa Dietician Jill Fleming Writes Walking Prescriptions to Get Her Patients on the Road to Weight Loss

Why write a walking prescription? For Waukon’s own Registered Dietician Jill Fleming, a lot of her work with patients is focused on weight loss. “Walking can help increase the calorie burn and help people lose weight. I notice that patients experience improved mental health and they describe feeling better.”

In fact, depression is one major issue Fleming sees regularly which walking can help address. While many of the healthcare practitioners we’ve interviewed list diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol as other areas that can benefit from walking, Fleming added an interesting new one to the mix– constipation. Who knew?!

We asked Jill what she loves about Northeast Iowa. “I choose to drive an hour to work in Waukon. The people/patients in this community are amazing… they have big hearts. I enjoy my job very much.” While in Waukon, Fleming loves walking the local golf course, just steps from the doors at Veteran’s Memorial Hospital.

We were so grateful to connect with Jill and learn about the life-altering ways she’s impacting this fantastic Northeast Iowa community. From the entire team at Walk More, Connect More, we’d like to thank Jill Fleming and the entire team of caring professionals at Veteran’s Memorial for the great work they do each day.

Driftless Doctor Steve Perkins Prescribes Walking Because Exercise is Medicine

“Exercise is medicine. In order for our hearts, lungs and muscles to function optimally, we need to move! Walking can help keep my patients off meds for depression, diabetes, hypertension, and more,” says local doc Steve Perkins. As Perkins writes walking scripts at Veteran’s Memorial Hospital, he educates patients on issues he sees regularly that walking can help address, like arthritis and cardiovascular issues.

Dr. Perkins notes “It’s evidence-based medicine for Physicians/Providers to recommend walking to their patients. It works! Follow published guidelines.” Speaking to his own favorite ways to recreate throughout Northeast Iowa, Perkins enjoys hiking in a variety of settings around the area. His favorites include Yellow River Forest and Effigy Mounds.

He also relishes in walks or jogs around the loop in Waukon near Mt. Olivet Cemetery. He adds “There are many wonderful places to walk, hike, jog, or bike on the gravel roads outside of town.”

Local Physical Therapist Amy Robinson Recommends Patients Walk Due to Strong Evidence

“Recommending walking to our patients is an evidence-based practice; Walking 20-30 minutes per day will decrease health problems,” says Waukon Physical Therapist Amy Robinson. Northeast Iowa’s people are what Robinson loves most about the region, and it shows.

During a workday at Veteran’s Memorial Hospital, she pointed out to our team that for many, sitting has become the “new smoking” when it comes to the negative effects on our health. Robinson regularly sees how walking can address both obesity and her patients’ pain.

“Our bodies are meant for motion – we are supposed to move – all day long,” Amy says. For her own walks, Robinson loves Northeast Iowa’s trails at Yellow River, the Prairie Farmer Trail, and Trout Run Trail. We salute Amy Robinson for the incredible healing work she is doing to keep folks in the Driftless healthy and strong.

Jessica Everman Writes Walking Prescriptions to Empower Local Patients to Put Their Best Foot Forward

As a Physician’s Assistant at Veteran’s Memorial Hospital in Waukon, Jessica Everman is busy. But choosing to incorporate walking prescriptions into her practice makes sense. When we caught up with Everman recently, she told us “Promoting walking is evidenced-based. I regularly recommend walking for all of my patients to address chronic conditions and to improve their health. Walking can help address obesity, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis… all chronic conditions.”

Everman filled us in on her love of Northeast Iowa scenery, and the real reason she’d like to see other health care professionals put pen to paper around walking. “I want the prescription to provide a real prompt for the patient to be motivated as well as serving as a reminder they can refer to … on their refrigerator or calendar.”

Jessica’s own favorite regional walking routes include Trout Run Trail and the  river trail alongside the Upper Iowa River in Decorah. We look forward to spotting Everman on the trails this spring and summer, and salute her efforts to get her patient’s walking and connecting with each other and so much gorgeous Driftless scenery.

Northeast Iowa Doctor Andy Smith Prescribes Walking for Stress Reduction and Overall Health

It’s easy for a physician to remind patients of seemingly basic truths. Drink water. Get plenty of rest. Take a walk. But putting pen to paper, and putting a request for walking into an actual prescription, adds a whole other layer of both permission and accountability for the patient. Dr. Andy Smith of Guttenberg Municipal walks Guttenberg’s River Walk, and hikes trails at Pike’s Peak State Park for his own health and wellbeing. Smith loves Northeast Iowa’s forested hills and valleys. He believes his patients have a right to enjoy the beauty of our region’s landscape and also thrive physically here in the Driftless.

Smith says walking can improve diabetic control, lower blood pressure, improve stress, and reduce weight. Of his current writing prescription practice, Smith reminds us and other area physicians “This action (promoting walking) can cause significant health benefits. Writing this as an order shows patients you are serious about improving their health.”

WalkNEIowa.org thanks Dr. Smith & Guttenberg Municipal Hospital for their efforts to improve the lives & wellbeing of Northeast Iowans. Dr. Smith and others like him help us connect the dots between our health and our happiness, as well as connecting the dots of one Northeast Iowa community to the next.

Dr. Daniel Mansfield Writes Walking Prescriptions to Northeast Iowa Patients

For Dr. Daniel Mansfield of Guttenberg Municipal Hospital, encouraging patients to walk is an obvious and important step. As a General Surgeon, Mansfield says “For surgery patients, it is very beneficial for their post-op recovery if they are walking regularly at the time of surgery.  We refer to it as ‘pre-conditioning’… they will experience less discomfort and be moving sooner after their surgery. It’s very impactful.”

A resident of Decorah, Dr. Mansfield regularly walks the trails in Palisades Park and Van Peenen, as well as the city parks. Mansfield loves the bluffs, hills, and rivers of the Driftless and reminds us that those hills in towns and out on the region’s trails are a great way for people to improve their conditioning.

“Walking helps with overall fitness and conditioning for surgical patients. It increases blood flow in their extremities, helping to decrease the risk of blood clots as well as improves cardiovascular status. I encourage referring physicians to prescribe walking to their patients as they will be in better shape pre-operatively and will do much better in their post-operative course. No question.”

Mansfield went on to encourage other healthcare providers to write actual tangible walking prescriptions to patients, emphasizing “I write the prescription to be concrete and reflect the importance of daily walking. It also serves as a reminder. I encourage patients to put it on their refrigerator so they see it often.”

Kudos to Dr. Mansfield and Guttenberg Municipal Hospital for educating and empowering their patients to live stronger, more robust Northeast Iowa lives!

Dr. Geralyn Zuercher Says Northeast Iowa’s Rolling Hills Have the Power to Help Patients Heal

Dr. Geralyn Zuercher loves Northeast Iowa’s rolling hills and trees. And as a Family Medicine & OB Provider in West Union, she reminds patients that walking those rolling hills can contribute to a healthy and vibrant life. Zuercher is now wielding her pen to write walking prescriptions. Zuercher recently told us “It’s very easy to prescribe walking. It’s not as easy to achieve follow-through on the patient’s part… but it’s very important. Walking is more beneficial to more disease conditions than any one pill!”

In West Union proper, Zuercher recommends walking the community’s loops that include the downtown, or heading out to the Recreation Center trail. She encourages her patients to remember just how powerful walking is in helping to treat and/or prevent chronic conditions. Dr. Zuercher says “Walking is very beneficial for chronic illnesses such as Diabetes, Heart disease, Depression and many others.  It can also be a great way for my patients to connect with others socially. People need the social connection. Walking is one of the most fundamental health habits for people. I routinely recommend a healthy diet, regular exercise, and deep relaxation to my patients.”

Here at Northeast Iowa’s “Walk More, Connect More” campaign, we feel better already.

Guttenberg Health Care Provider Amber Wessels Puts Pen to Paper to Remind Patients to Walk

Born and raised in Northeast Iowa, Amber Wessels is proud to call this place home. In her impactful role as a Northeast Iowa Nurse Practitioner, she’s surprising patients by hand-writing prescriptions for walking. As Wessels engages with the community at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital, she reflects on how to increase her patient’s overall wellness and quality of life.

Poised to write more patient prescriptions for walking, she told us “Walking can improve overall health for my patients. It can prevent the development of disease. It can boost people’s mood and make them feel better.”

Wessels believes walking can also help improve the management of chronic diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, Depression, and Anxiety. Here at the “Walk More, Connect More” initiative for Northeast Iowa, we were thrilled when Wessels acknowledged “Walking can also be a ‘connector’ for people who are socially isolated.” We couldn’t agree more.

But why physically write a walking prescription, rather than just advise patience audibly to incorporate walks into their daily lives? Well, Wessels says, “Actually writing on a piece of paper is a visual cue. This is important.”

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we all sometimes need a permission slip, of sorts, to do something as basic and important as a good long walk. We salute Amber Wessels for advocating for her patients by helping them take time for themselves and each other.

Amber’s own favorite walking routes are in Edgewood-area parks—like Bixby and Back Bone.

Stories from Northeast Iowa Residents

I used the summer “Walk More Connect More” challenge as an opportunity to combine a daily 30-minute walk with our 2 1/2 year-old’s need for a 1 p.m. nap. So for most days this summer, I strolled my son during my lunch break. He didn’t always nap, but we both grew to love that time of day and the knowledge that we had that time together.

I started walking in college, but I also enjoyed going for walks with my three sons when they were younger, and for the last 13 years as a dog owner. I walk every day with my dog, Bubba, for at least 30 minutes.

I live close to a couple parks, so I walk there frequently. For a longer walk, I go to the trail on the opposite side of town. I walk for my dog and for stress relief.

Walking gives me some down time for thinking with no interruptions. And I enjoy the exercise! I encourage others to walk for the health benefits—physical and mental.

A couple of friends and I started walking back in November to lose weight, and it has turned into a nice way to just have a hour to get away from everything.

We walk seven days a week—at least an hour a day. Not all of us are able to make it every day, but we all try to make it as much as our schedules allow.

In winter we are able to walk in our elementary school to keep from the elements and when its nice, we walk around our town. On weekend we try and hit our parks.

It is a great way to unwind from work.

I walk every morning with my dog “Ruby” for 20-30 minutes. Then we try to repeat our walk when I get home from work. On the weekends we walk several times a day if possible. I’ve never been good at sitting around so Ruby is the perfect dog for me as she has a lot of energy.

I have tried every type of exercise you can think of in my adult life. The one thing I have been able to stick with is walking. And walking outdoors is so much more enjoyable than on a treadmill. I have been doing my current walking routine for about 15 years.

We walk in the rural area north of Guttenberg where I live. We cover a combination of back roads and timber trails – if you have some different options you don’t get bored. My neighbors and co-workers are often surprised that we walk in all weather and all temperatures. You just need to dress appropriately. I also invested in a good pair of walking poles—they help keep me on my feet in the winter and are great when we hike the trails.

When we brought home our first Australian Cattle Dog we realized that they are high-energy dogs. They need exercise every day, and guess what, so do I! When my alarm goes off in the morning, Ruby is right there ready to go. She is also at the door waiting for me when I get home from work. Now I find that I look forward to our walks as much as she does.

We all have busy lives. When I walk in our rural neighborhood, I often get the opportunity to talk to neighbors that I might not otherwise connect with. I also find that it is a good way to start my day, mentally checking through my “to do list” for the day. And at the end of the day, I can de-stress before spending time with my husband.

Walk for your health—both mental and physical. My energy level is low if there is a day I can’t walk in the morning. And I sleep better at night if I have had fresh air.

I have been a walker for many years. Over the years, I’ve realized the importance of doing some form of daily physical activity. Outdoors is my favorite, due to living in the country with the fresh air and peacefulness. Watching the wildlife is very relaxing for me. Also, walking is “me time.”

When the weather is nice, I walk outdoors for 1–2 miles. I live in the country, so I walk on my gravel road. We also have a large grassy field with paths through it, which I walk for a change of scenery and pace. If the weather is not cooperating, I walk on treadmill for 20 minutes or use the elliptical.

My favorite time to walk is to watch the sunrise and the sunset. There are never two sunrises or sunsets that are alike, so I walk twice a day not to miss them.

I walk for many reasons: for better health, time for myself, reduction of stress. Also, for pleasure—it is very invigorating. Walking helps me focus on what I need to accomplish and clears my mind. Further, I am a diabetic. Walking helps me stay as healthy as possible by naturally controlling blood sugars. As a health coach, I encourage many of my diabetic clients to walk at whatever distance they are able.

Breathing in the fresh air, taking in scenery of our county is enough reason for walking. Get a good pair of walking shoes and just get started by setting small goals, then work up from there. Walking is a simple way to enjoy life!

I’ve been walking forever, I guess. I grew up walking to school (both elementary and high school 10 blocks or so from my house). I had a morning paper route, which I either walked or rode my bike. I’ve also walked to work at every job I’ve had.

I walk for a number of reasons. First, I walk to avoid driving. I am cheap and I hate to spend money on gas. And even before I was paying much attention to sustainability it just seemed wrong to drive when I could walk. Second, I walk for exercise and as one way to control my weight. Third, I walk through town to observe all that is going on.

After having our second daughter, I needed a reason to get out of the house and get back in shape after being on bedrest for over 5 weeks. I began walking our 5-year-old to school every morning and volunteering on walking school bus days. It became a habit.

We then began going on family walks in the evening instead of watching TV. I’m in the best shape I have been in, even before kids! Life is about the choices we make, not only for ourselves as adults, but as the example we set for your children.

I now volunteer for our walking school bus and enjoy walking around the neighborhood, downtown, at the rec center, and on the trails.

I started walking on a daily basis in 1992. I try to walk a minimum of 20 minutes each day, but ideally I like to do 30 minutes or more.

I walk because walking is a wonderful form of exercise— it keeps me healthy and active! Walking also gives me time to de-stress, meditate, pray, and, if I’m outside, enjoy nature.

Walking has also been a great way for me to keep my weight in check and my blood pressure down. I’ve had borderline high blood pressure since my pregnancy in 1997 and so far have avoided blood pressure medications.

I also enjoy visiting with family and friends which can be done while walking— and if I don’t have someone to go with me in person, I grab my cell phone, call a loved one, and hit the pavement or track in a “walk and talk” session!

I’ve always been a very active person and walking has always been a consistent part of my life. I walk to work and back every day and over the noon hour my coworker and I walk around campus. Each day I average one hour of walking.

Walking provides me with alone time, clears my mind, and gets me out of the house. Walking helps lower my blood pressure, improves my sleep, and energizes me— and is the perfect way to get some sunshine and boost my vitamin D to keep my bones strong. It also helps strengthen my heart muscle and helps to tone up my muscles in general.

The hardest part is getting “out the door,” but the rest of it is relaxing and so beneficial! Being with nature and the sun, creating mental clarity with alone time, and taking in fresh air are gifts for a healthy life!

I walk to relieve mental stress, to clear my mind, and for physical exercise. Walking helps me with weight management, bone density and other health concerns, like improving my HDL cholesterol and lowering my LDL cholesterol.

When I walk I sleep much better. I’m more productive at work and life seems so much better. I’m able to focus and be positive with friends. My co-workers stated that I’m much better focused and upbeat when I’m actively walking!

Everyone should walk! It improves brain power and prevents heart disease, cancer, depression and is good for the soul. Fresh air is awesome even in the cold mornings. Thirty minutes a day is a wonder— make it a habit!

I started walking thirty-six years ago when I did not have a car to drive to work. It was about a mile and a half to my job, so I ended up walking three miles a day. I noticed that I was in a much better mood when I started work and after I got home from work. I enjoyed it so much, and the way it made me feel, that I have continued walking for pleasure ever since.

I walk to relieve stress and to clear my head— I feel much better emotionally after I walk. I like the fresh air and being outside with nature. It is easy to lose the problems of the day while I am walking, because I concentrate on the beauty that surrounds me rather than the problems that weigh me down.

I believe others should walk in order to escape the indoors even if it is for a few minutes. Walking is like taking a mini vacation; a person returns refreshed and ready to tend to whatever it is that needs attention. Walking is beneficial to a person’s physical as well as mental health; and it requires no special equipment or talent to do it. A person has to be willing to take that first step out the door in order to experience how the simple act of walking can benefit his or her life.