Around our region, health practitioners are taking their offices outdoors and onto the Circuit Trails as part of an exciting program to benefit community wellness.

The Prescribe-a-Trail program, which is in its second full year, is an initiative by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) that offers local communities the opportunity to walk and talk with medical professionals while gaining tips and insights about healthy living in active, informal settings #onthecircuit. Ranging from brain health to walking techniques and more, health experts at these walks discuss a specific topic, and then chat one-on-one with community members while answering questions and enjoying a brisk walk around some of our area’s scenic trails. This season, more than 10 walks occurred on the Radnor Trail, the Chester Valley Trail and the Valley Forge National Park Trails. 

Radnor Steps walkers and their dogs enjoy a brisk social walk after hearing a brief talk by a doctor. (Caption & Photo Credit: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy)

General practitioners, nurses, nutritionists, physical therapists and other experts from health networks have all lent their services to these free community events.

Tom Sexton, a Regional Director for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, created the Prescribe-a-Trail program before the 2016 trail season to connect two networks that could easily benefit from one another. Tom told us, “Hospitals and their clinicians are key leaders in every community, so I wanted to secure the health community’s support for trails by showing them how they could tangibly use trails to promote health within their market and among their employees.”

Prescribe-a-Trail walkers enjoy the social aspect of meeting new people and walking with a group outdoors on a local trail. (Caption & Photo Credit: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy)

Jefferson University Hospitals, Paoli Hospital and Premier Orthopaedics are just three healthcare organizations that have experienced the benefit of these informal sessions. Through Prescribe-a-Trail events, RTC has helped establish relationships between health providers and their community members, all while encouraging both parties to get on the trails.

Participant attendance in the Prescribe-a-Trail walks increased from last trail season to the current season, which has also seen increased participation by local healthcare networks, further expanding the topics of discussion for each scheduled walk. In the future, RTC hopes that with the help of its Prescribe-a-Trail Handbook, hospitals will find it easier to consistently run their own Prescribe-a-Trail programs.

As for this trail season, there’s (at least) one more Prescribe-a-Trail event left! Head out to the Chester Valley Trail this Saturday (11/11) at 9:00 a.m. to join Dr. William Duffy, a Penn Personalized Care physician, who will speak about individualized medicine and long-term wellness. Bundle up and wear comfortable shoes – and don’t be afraid to get chatty with Dr. Duffy as you stroll the trail. Make sure you check the events section of our website to see if any other Prescribe-a-Trail walks are coming up this season!