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Doctor's advice: Take a walk sometime


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 basis.”

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 with stress.

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 in Charlotte.

“They’re all very close and easy to get to options in our area for outdoor activity,” he said.