Walking Groups Demonstrate Wide Ranging Health Benefits

Sarah Hanson Norwich Medical School University of East AngliaMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sarah Hanson

Norwich Medical School
University of East Anglia

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Physical inactivity is a global problem. Walking is an easy way to increase physical activity. One way to increase physical activity may be through the use of outdoor walking groups. Walking groups are increasingly popular but until now we have not known if there are wider health benefits from walking groups, apart from increasing physical activity.

Medical Research: What was the study method?

Response: A systematic review and meta-analysis of outdoor walking group interventions found 42 studies which met the eligibility criteria. These studies involved 1,843 participants in 14 countries doing approximately 74,000 hours of walking.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: This systematic review has given us the evidence that outdoor group walking have wide ranging health benefits. Participants had a wide range of long term conditions, including arthritis, dementia, diabetes, fibromyalgia, obesity/overweight, mental health issues, and Parkinson’s disease.

Meta-analysis showed statistically significant reductions in mean difference for systolic blood pressure -3.72mmHg (-5.28 to -2.17) and diastolic blood pressure -3.14mmHg (-4.15 to -2.13); resting heart rate -2.88bpm (-4.13 to -1.64); body fat -1.31% (-2.10 to -0.52), body mass index -0.71kg/m² (-1.19 to -0.23), total cholesterol -0.11mmol/L (-0.22 to -0.01) and statistically significant mean increases in VO₂ max of 2.66 ml/kg/min (1.67 to 3.65), the SF-36 (physical functioning) score 6.02 (0.51 to 11.53) and a 6 minute walk time of 79.6 metres (53.37, 105.84). A standardised mean difference showed a reduction in depression scores with an effect size of -0.67 (-0.97 to -0.38). The evidence was less clear for other outcomes such as waist circumference fasting glucose, SF36 (mental health) and serum lipids such as HDL. There were no notable adverse side effects reported in any of the studies.

Medical Research: What does this mean for clinicians and for patients?

Response: Walking groups are effective and safe with good adherence and wide ranging physical and psychological health benefits. They could be a promising intervention as an adjunct to other healthcare or as a proactive health-promoting activity.

This provides clinicians with evidence of a further effective option to recommend to those patients who would benefit from increasing moderate physical activity.

Citation:

Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Sports Med bjsports-2014-094157Published Online First: 19 January 2015 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094157

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