If you are a sociable soul, here’s some interesting news about exercising with others: A study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that being part of an outdoor walking group can improve health in many ways, including improvements in blood pressure, resting heart rate, total cholesterol, body weight, body fat, physical functioning, and risk of depression.
There are different kinds of walking groups. One is a collection of individuals who participate in regular outdoor walks headed by a trained but non-medical leader. Other walking groups are less formal. Previous studies have found that walking groups are effective at promoting regular physical activity.
Two researchers from Norwich Medical School in Norwich, England, combined the results of 42 studies that evaluated the health effects of walking groups. This meta-analysis showed that walking groups offer a range of health benefits. The analysis showed that people who were part of a walking group tended to keep exercising and not slack off. They also had low rates of adverse effects from walking, mostly falls.
The findings are interesting because walking group participants reaped health benefits even though many of the groups did not meet international guidelines for moderate activity. This supports the idea that any activity is better than none, something that Dr. Howard LeWine explored last week in the Harvard Health blog.