Published on August 17, 2015

A passport to Healthy Parks, Healthy People

A passport to Healthy Parks, Healthy People

Judith Severi was waiting patiently for the launch of Healthy Parks, Healthy People at Cape Cod National Seashore. And it paid off. She was the first person on July 6, 2015 to officially register for the season-long walking program that combines physical fitness with the love of nature.

By the end of its first two weeks, nearly 100 people – full-time residents, second-home owners and some visitors – had registered and received their Healthy Parks, Healthy People passports to record their season-long commitment to walking five trails from Eastham to Provincetown.

As they registered, medical staff from Cape Cod Healthcare weighed them, calculated their Body Mass Index (BMI), took their blood pressure and checked their heart rate before and after their immediate walk.

At 76, Severi, takes pride in her good health, even knowing her Body Mass Index (BMI) before she visited the tent in front of the Salt Pond Visitor Center, staffed Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. by Cape Cod Healthcare personal trainers, as well as staff from the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod.

Two participants who signed up for their passports beginning week three of the program managed to complete the Nauset Marsh trail in 26 minutes, expending 120 calories. It was a 17-minute-mile pace. While brisk, there still was time to stop and enjoy the stunning views of the marsh to the Atlantic, as well as search the sky for birds and try to detect an animal moving in the nearby brush.

When you sign up for a passport, you are asked by the Cape Cod Healthcare staff to fill out a confidential questionnaire.

  • What do you consider to be personal obstacles to exercise?
  • How would you grade your personal fitness?
  • Why do you want to exercise?
  • What factors would inspire you or have inspired you previously to exercise regularly?
  • What activity level best applies to you?

There are multiple options for each registrant to check for each question. There are no ‘right’ answers, explains Dan O’Keefe, an athletic trainer at Cape Cod Healthcare.

The questionnaire, developed by Healthy Parks, Healthy People Medical Director. Elissa Thompson, MD, aims to learn more about why some people are motivated to maintain heart health, but others are not.

“We have a crisis in this country in health care that is draining the economy, especially the epidemic of obesity and diabetes,” says Dr. Thompson, who is a cardiologist.

“Exercise has a profound effect on blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol. What we don’t have evidence for is what makes some people motivated to be physical and others not. As a physician, I ask myself, ‘How can I help someone move from Point A to Point B?’”

Dr. Thompson’s team will research who is participating in the Healthy Parks, Health People initiative, why they come and why they stay.

“If we can obtain these answers, it will contribute significantly to designing other programs at Cape Cod Healthcare to prevent heart disease and help those who suffer from it to improve their health,” Dr. Thompson says.

To learn more about Healthy Parks, Healthy People and to register for a Passport, visit www.capecodhealth.org/healthyparks