Group Walking May Benefit Health

walkingWhen my now toddler-son was younger, I used to meet a group of other new mothers twice a week to push our strollers around the neighborhood together. It was an ideal way to ease back into exercise after pregnancy, connect with a supportive group of new friends, and break up the monotony of walking alone. Now new research suggests my stroller walks may have had even more benefits: a new study has shown that regular group walking may reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease and depression. 

Researchers at the University of East Anglia say their findings suggest that clinicians and local authorities should recommend local walking groups in their areas as a way to encourage physical activity in the general public.

The health benefits of walking are well-known. One study suggested hourly five-minute walks may reverse arterial damage caused by sitting down for long periods, while another study suggested just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day could reduce the risk of premature death. 

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest 150 minutes of brisk walking per week for the average American, although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says less than half of Americans achieve this goal.

For this study, the team set out to determine the health benefits associated with group walking. “Although walking groups are increasingly popular, we have not known if there are wider health benefits from walking groups, apart from increasing physical activity,” study co-author Sarah Hanson said.

Their study found that participants who joined walking groups experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, body fat, body mass index, resting heart rate and total cholesterol – all factors that may reduce the risk of a number of conditions, including stroke and heart disease. 

Around 75% of participants continued group walking throughout the study, suggesting that the activity was pleasurable and that people may be more likely to continue walking with a group to urge them on.

Hanson adds “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 behaviors.” 

I’m sold – Although I love running with my dog each day, I’ll also be calling up all my old stroller walk companions to ask if they’d like to walk together again while our children are busy in preschool.


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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker

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