Joining a walking group does more than improve your social life – it cuts your risk of developing life-threatening disorders, say researchers.
According to scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, stroke, heart disease, depression and even cancer recurrence can be staved off through regular outdoor walking in groups.
Sarah Hanson and Professor Andy Jones carried out a review of 42 studies that looked at 1,843 participants in 14 countries, including a total of 74,000 hours of group walking.
Among the benefits found are lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood cholesterol levels, body fat and Body Mass Index (BMI).
Sarah Hanson said: “Our research suggests that by joining a group, people walk faster and further than they would normally walk.
“It is one of the best and easiest ways to boost overall health. The benefits are wide ranging – and they go above and beyond making people more physically active.
“The merits of walking – including lowering the recurrence of some cancers – are well known, but these findings show that the dynamics and social cohesion of walking in groups may produce additional advantages.
“People who walk in groups also tend to have a more positive attitude toward physical activity, a shared experience of wellness, and say they feel less lonely and isolated.”
Britons are advised to do 150 minutes a week of moderate activity but almost a third do less than 30 minutes exercise a week, and one in 10 doesn’t manage to walk more than five minutes at a time over a month.
The study findings suggest that doctors and other health care providers should recommend patients join a walking group as a way to improve their health, researchers added.