Some doctors prescribe pills. One Gaston doctor prescribes taking a walk
along the scenic South Fork Trail, located between Lowell and McAdenville.
Dr. Randall Gehle, a Navytrained physician who practices at CaroMont Family
Medicine in McAdenville, said recommending the trail to his patients is
part of his routine exercise orders. He said he’s urged more than
30 patients to take advantage of the trail and has received positive feedback
from those who have followed their doctor’s orders.
“It’s an opportunity for them to get out and get aerobic exercise
in a non-boring environment,” said Gehle, who lives in Belmont.
“I find that patients that mix outdoor approaches with other exercise
do a much better job of incorporating exercise into their lives on a daily
The South Fork Trail runs along the banks of the South Fork of the Catawba
River. Running four miles round-trip, the trail snakes underneath the
Interstate 85 bridge near exit 23 and meanders through a quiet section
of woods along the river.
“In five minutes, you feel like you’ve gone to the mountains,”
Gehle said. “You’re walking along the stream, in the woods
and seeing animals — it’s a getaway in the middle of the town.”
The South Fork Trail is part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a two state,
15-county initiative — including Gaston, Cleveland, Lincoln and
York counties — to connect the region through a network of trails
and natural areas. Last month, the Carolina Thread Trail, commonly known
as The Thread, celebrated its fifth anniversary and marked its 100th mile
of public trail.
“Five years ago, our region’s leaders had a vision to create
a connected trail system to make our corner of the world a healthier,
greener and more attractive place to live, work and explore,” said
Ann Browning, project director for The Thread.
It’s even simpler for Gehle, who practices about a mile away from
the local trail.
“For me, it’s just a convenient local access to exercise that
I use for my patients,” he said. “I find it to be very peaceful
and wonderful resource.”
Getting outdoors to walk is chocked full of wonderful benefits, Gehle said.
In addition to helping you manage weight, reduce your risk or manage type
2 diabetes and lower blood pressure, it can also improve mood and help
All you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. If you have any problems
with balance, take a walking stick. If you’re just getting started,
don’t try to walk an hour your first time out, Gehle recommends.
Instead, start slow, even if it’s only a few minutes a day, and
gradually increase the amount you walk over time.
The big thing Gehle stresses to his patients, and to folks in general,
is to get moving. In addition to the South Fork Trail and the several
other Thread trails in Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln counties, he recommends
the trails out at Crowders Mountain State Park, the Gastonia Greenway,
which begins at Lineberger Park, and the U.S. National Whitewater Center
“They’re all very close and easy to get to options in our area
for outdoor activity,” he said.