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BELO, W.Va. -- On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the weather's good, you can see them out there, walking around and around church, 20 or 30 of them, circling the Little Dove Independent Baptist Church.
Some stride. A few hobble along with canes. "I may be in first gear, but I get there," said 72-year-old Wanda Maynard.
Last spring, they figured out that 15 times around the church is a mile.
"In Mingo County, if you try walking on the road, you risk getting flattened by a coal truck," said Pastor Jimmy Maynard (no relation to Wanda). A few hundred feet away, coal trucks whiz by on narrow, twisty W.Va. 65, a steep hill on one side, a creek on the other.
"They don't let coal trucks stop them," said Dr. Patty Jo Marcum, their medical adviser. She grew up in the 132-year-old church. "We're a close bunch," she said. "I'm so proud of them."
They started exercising last spring. Jesus was a healer, Pastor Maynard noted. "We had sisters and brothers with sugar problems, knee problems, arthritis and heart problems, and we decided it was time for us to step up," he said. "When the body's fit, the spirit's more likely to be fit, too."
"I advised them to walk and stretch," Marcum said. "They created their own program from there. They have such a good time together, they keep coming back, and I'm telling you, they're getting results."
"What Little Dove is doing is simple, straightforward and do-able," said the Rev. Jeff Allen, director of the West Virginia Council of Churches. "It doesn't cost them anything. It's something any church could easily do."
"Most churches have a nurse or doctor who can help them," Marcum said.
"If every West Virginia church did what Little Dove is doing with just 10 people, that would be 30,000 people with better health," Allen said. "Think about that."
There are roughly 3,000 churches in West Virginia. "Churches can be an important part of the answer to our health problems," he said. "It's got me thinking how we could spread this statewide."