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Three people walking

Ross Barnett is living proof that walking is a great way to lose weight and improve your health.

Ross has lost 8kg and is feeling great since the Farm Street Family Health Centre obtained funding from the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation to set up exercise groups with tracking devices and social apps.

The groups were formed at a great time for Ross, who saw his recent 60th birthday as a prompt for making positive lifestyle changes.

As he nears the half-way point of the 90-day programme, Ross, who works in retail sales, has increased his walking to 15,000 steps a day.

One day he even walked 36,000 steps while completing a half-marathon.

“It’s really opened my eyes to what I can do,” says Ross.

Farm Street Medical Centre GP Wendy Huang says the practice’s doctors and nurses hatched the idea to form diet and walking groups as a way to help improve the health of their patients – and especially those with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

The latter condition in particular can be managed through diet and exercise, preventing full-blown diabetes.

Thirty patients joined the programme, and were given 30-minute private consultations before being arranged into four groups – each headed by a Farm Street nurse or GP.

All were provided with Striiv fitness trackers and social apps that let them share progress and motivate each other.

“Ross is really smashing it out,” says Wendy.

Wendy should know, because she and several other Farm Street doctors and nurses are leading the walking groups and sharing their own “step” numbers with their patients through the social app.

Leading another group is Farm Street nurse Hilary Lawson, who says the tracking device and app help to build motivation.

“It gives a purpose to your walking,” she says. “We’re really thrilled by it – knowing that people are out there moving and improving their health.”

WBOP PHO chief executive officer Roger Taylor says the Farm Street initiative is a great example of giving people the tools they need for taking control of their own health.

“It’s great to see doctors and nurses working so hard to help people improve their health through diet and exercise,” he says.

“We’re funding this initiative because it helps people make the right choices to live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Meanwhile, Ross has set goals to wean himself off blood pressure pills and to run, rather than walk, his next half-marathon.

His wife Vicky joins him in his exercise outings, and their pet Shih Tzu dog must be wondering why the daily ‘walkies’ are so vigorous.

“Vicky and I have both noticed quite a big difference in how we feel and what we can do,” Ross says.

“And I’ve had to put more holes in my belt.”