ST. ALBANS — Physicians in Franklin County are writing prescriptions for a new kind of drug – walking.

Today marks the start of Walk with a Doc, a national program brought to Northern Vermont by Northwestern Medical Center’s Lifestyle Medicine. This series of free events invites the community to come together with their local physicians at Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center and take a walk each week throughout the summer.

“We want people to come and just have a walk with others. Bring your kids, grandparents, anybody! The idea is just to show how fun it is to be physically active,” Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine and RiseVT, said.

The program launched in conjunction with National Physical Fitness and Sports Month hopes to encourage everyone to “move in May” and then continue this active lifestyle throughout the whole year.

“It’s amazing how much physical activity may have an impact on our health, that we don’t realize,” Fontaine said citing research by the American Heart Association, which states that 5.3 million deaths in the world can be directly attributed to lack of physical activity which is a figure comparable to smoking related deaths.

The American College of Sports Medicine suggests the minimal amount of exercise adults should get a week is 150 minutes, which breaks down into 30 minutes 5 days a week. Further research by the ACSM estimates a third of people worldwide fail to meet this guideline.

“People just don’t realize how bad it is being totally inactive,” Fontaine said.

As a physician for 23 years, entirely inactive lifestyles were a common issue she dealt with. That’s why she decided to jump into lifestyle medicine full time. Just last year, Fontaine became one of the first medical professionals to earn a Lifestyle Medicine Board Certification. She also has a masters degree in exercise physiology and obesity.

For more on the program and a full list of upcoming walks, pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.