Walking groups for better health
Joining a walking group is one of the best ways to improve your health and fitness, new research shows.
If you’re looking for a fun and approachable way to get active, joining a walking group might be the perfect solution. A new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has found that walking groups offer one of the best and most accessible ways of improving your overall health.
Walking is great for you – from building your fitness to giving you a boost of energy to lowering your body fat – but that’s not all. The social aspect of walking with a group also makes you more likely to stick with the exercise as a regular activity.
"Our research shows that joining a walking group is one of the best and easiest ways to boost overall health. The benefits are wide ranging, and they go above and beyond making people more physically active,” says lead researcher Sarah Hanson, from the University of East Anglia.
“People who walk in groups also tend to have a more positive attitude toward physical activity, a shared experience of wellness and say they feel less lonely and isolated. Taking regular walks can also be a catalyst for adopting other healthy behaviours."
“People who walk in groups also tend to have a more positive attitude toward physical activity, a shared experience of wellness and say they feel less lonely and isolated."
The researchers looked at 42 studies from 14 countries, each examining the physical and mental health benefits of taking part in an outdoor walking group. It was found that walking group participants experienced a decrease in body fat, BMI, blood pressure, resting heart rate and total cholesterol, as well as overall improvements in fitness, physical functioning and lung power. They also had fewer symptoms of depression, and 75% of participants stuck to walking as a regular activity.
Heart Foundation Walking Groups
The Heart Foundation runs free walking groups around Australia, providing a fun and social way for people of all ages and fitness levels to come together and get active in their community.
“We are encouraged to see expanding evidence to support what we see each day; that walking as part of a group promotes physical and emotional health and wellbeing,” says Michelle Wilson, National Program Manager for Heart Foundation Walking.
"Walking on a regular basis also has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, while also helping to maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes. The simple act of walking for 30 minutes on all or most days of the week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as half – and gradually walking faster, further or for longer only increases the benefit.”
Heart Foundation Walking, proudly supported by the Medibank Community Fund, has been operating for 20 years and currently engages over 20,000 participants in 1,400 groups around Australia.
To join a walking group or start one of your own in your area, visit heartfoundation.org.au/walking