A new study published in the British Journal of Sports and Medicine found regular, organized walking groups are great for health.
Researchers analyzed existing studies on walking groups — outings that don’t last longer than an hour — which included 1,843 people from 14 countries. Study participants were assessed before and after joining a group, many of whom were suffering from long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, depression, and obesity. When comparing health and well-being before and after joining a group, researchers found a statistically significant difference in wellbeing.
The New York Daily News reported walkers experienced “small measurable gains were seen in general fitness, blood pressure, resting heart rate, lung power, cholesterol levels, and body fat.” This, according to researchers is a cost-effective and low-risk way to enhance overall health, and it’s what doctors should start recommending to some of their patients.
"Our research shows…the benefits are wide ranging — and they go above and beyond making people more physically active,” Sarah Hanson, lead study author of the University of East Anglia Norwich Medical School, said in a press release. “What's more, people find it relatively easy to stick with this type of exercise regime.”
Though, as Gretchen Reynolds brings up in her column for The New York Times, the benefits of taking time to walk, especially outside, isn’t new. She’s right: walking is the easiest way to move more and promote an active lifestyle; it can slow progression of Parkinson’s disease; and it’s considered a crucial component of maintaining mobile independence as people age. Reynolds did, however, cite research focusing on walking in the workplace — an area she reported previously been limited.
“On the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk,” she reported.
Walking aside, there’s a separate body of research that supports the benefits of a workout partner. One study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found skilled workout partners who keep verbal encouragement to a minimum motivate others to work out longer; phrases like, “Come on, you can do it!” come off as condescending. Another study from Michigan State University found people perform better on aerobic tasks when paired with a partner. So it actually makes perfect sense the two coupled together are a huge win.
Walking groups, much like run clubs, are also a great way to meet new people, especially if you’ve recently moved to the area. Search sites, like Meetup.com, to find local walking groups or clubs. If you don’t find one, consider starting one yourself. See this guide from The American Heart Association.
Source: S. Hanson, A. Jones. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015.