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Evidence Summary

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Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

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Walking groups have many health benefits

Hanson S, Jones A. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis Br J Sports Med. 2015; 49:710-715.

Review question

Do walking groups provide health benefits for adults?

Background

Regular physical activity has many health benefits; however the majority of adults are not active enough to gain these benefits. Walking is a moderate intensity exercise that is possible for most older adults to do regularly. Group walking has shown to be an enjoyable, inexpensive way for older adults to increase their physical activity which is social and easy for people to continue in the long term. No research review has assessed the wider health benefits of walking groups.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review and meta-analysis of 42 studies.

The studies included 1843 adults (average age 58 years).  Fifteen studies focused on older adults.

Key features of the studies were:

  • Majority of participants had health conditions (including arthritis, dementia, diabetes, fibromyalgia obesity, mental health issues, Parkinson’s disease)
  • Participants took part in walking groups for time periods ranging from 3 weeks to 1 year, total walking time ranging from 168 to 8580 minutes.
  • Walking intensity varied from low to brisk and high-intensity
  • Researchers measured changes in physical health and fitness, quality of life and depression as well as adherence to the program and negative side effects.

What the researchers found

Walking groups significantly improved blood pressure, heart rate, body fat, body mass index, cholesterol, fitness, quality of life and walking speed. Risk of depression was also lower among participants. 75% of participants in walking groups completed the entire program and there were no notable negative effects. Future studies evaluating the benefits of walking groups in healthy adults and the optimal intensity and duration of walking groups are recommended.

Conclusion

Walking groups provide a wide range of health benefits in adults and may be a practical way to encourage physical activity.

 




Glossary

Meta-analysis
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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