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How to Start a Walking Group

 

by Julia Rodack

Who says staying fit has to be boring or anti-social?  The American Heart Association’s “Show Us Your Moves” campaign and National Walking Day in April is a great time to start a walking group and get moving!

How to Get Started

Not sure where to start — or even what a walking group is? Nutritionist Maribet Rivera-Brut explains:

First, look for like-minded women in your community, like friends or coworkers, who can commit the time (and patience) it takes to start a group. “A walking group is a group of people with a common goal: Be more physically active to improve their lifestyle,” Maribet said. “I like to compare a walking group with a counselor support group. In both, you can find people who support each other to help themselves to keep up a healthy and active lifestyle.”

Groups don’t have to be large! Maribet explained that two to three people are enough to get started. “The most important thing when you’re creating a group is to look for people who are really motivated to change their lifestyles,” Maribet said. If your immediate peer group isn’t ready to commit, Maribet suggests creating a sign up sheet to pass around your office to help create interest.

So, why make walking a group thing? In addition to feeling safer walking in a group versus solo, walkers have found it improves their social skills and mental well-being, Maribet explained. Walking groups also help participants stay motivated to keep up an active lifestyle.

The Heart-Healthy Benefits

You already know regular exercise benefits heart health, but do you know some other great benefits of staying fit? To name just a few, exercise helps you lose weight, reduce cholesterol levels, control blood glucose levels, increase energy and sleep better, Maribet said.

Before you start walking, it’s important to check in with your physician to make sure your heart is healthy enough for exercise. She  will also know how many minutes of exercise is optimal for your body, Maribet explained. When you do start walking regularly, pay attention to your body to find the intensity level you are most comfortable with. And remember, as with any exercise, it is important to stay hydrated.

The AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. (If you can’t start with 30, it recommends breaking it up into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.) Not sure you can squeeze in 30 minutes? “Take advantage of breaks at work,” Maribet said. “Some people have 15 minutes, others have 20 —that’s a great way to gather a couple of co-workers to create a walking group!”

How to Keep It Going

Like all goals — especially exercise-related ones — momentum can be hard to keep up. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. “Be patient with yourself,” Maribet said. “Don’t compare yourself with your family member, friend or coworker — it’s important to understand that each person has a different metabolism.”

And don’t forget to celebrate your successes — no matter how large or small. “Reward yourself (not with food) each time you reach a goal,” Maribet said. “This can help you to keep focused.”

Learn more about walking and get more tips from the American Heart Association on starting a walking club today.