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HomeSport and Exercise MedicineBenefits of outdoor walking groups

Benefits of outdoor walking groups

Individuals who participated in outdoor walking groups had reductions in BP, resting heart rate, total cholesterol, BMI, risk for depression and other health benefits, according research, reports Healio. "With low levels of attrition, high levels of adherence and virtually no adverse effects, this study suggests that walking groups could be a practicable intervention, acceptable to patients as a line of treatment with potential for both physiological and psychological health benefits," researchers wrote.

The systematic review and meta-analysis included 42 studies that measured physiological and psychological results of outdoor walking groups. The studies were conducted in 14 countries and were published through November 2013. The cohort included 1,843 participants aged 19 years and older with long-term health conditions including arthritis, cognitive impairment, dementia, diabetes fibromyalgia, mental health issues, obesity and Parkinson's disease. Three-quarters of the participants were women (43% of studies included walking groups exclusively for women). The mean age of the cohort was 58 years (15 studies targeted older individuals).

The degree of walking (low, brisk, high intensity) and amount of walking during a specific period of time (168 minutes to 8,580 minutes) varied in each group.

According to the results, in participants of outdoor walking groups, systolic BP decreased by 3.72 mm Hg (P<.001), diastolic BP by 3.14 mm Hg (P<.001), resting heart rate by 2.88 bpm (P<.001), body fat by 1.31% (P=.001), BMI by 0.71 kg/m (P=.003), total cholesterol by 0.11 mmol/L (P=.03). In addition, risk for depression was significantly decreased by 0.67. Participation in outdoor walking groups was also associated with increased peak oxygen consumption (2.66 mL/min/kg; P<.001), 6-minute walk test distance (79.6 min; P≤.001) and physical functioning (6.02 points; P=.03).

During a total of 74,000 participant hours in the studies included, few adverse events were reported. And 75% of participants maintained their routine, suggesting the social aspect of walking groups result in a positive outlook towards exercise, according to the researchers.

"The dynamics and social cohesion of walking groups may have supportive effects that encourage and sustain adherence and positive attitudes towards physical activity, companionship and a shared experience of wellness," they wrote.

Three-quarters of the studies were performed in the past decade, which researchers said may indicate that outdoor walking groups are an increasing trend in physical activity.

[link url="http://www.healio.com/cardiology/chd-prevention/news/online/%7Ba604f34f-9dad-411c-b76a-7167ed12b0de%7D/walking-groups-produced-wide-ranging-benefits"]Full Healio report[/link]
[link url="http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/12/19/bjsports-2014-094157.abstract"]British Journal of Sports Medicine abstract[/link]

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