Group Walking Seems to Boost Overall Health
Saturday, March 14, 2015 02:25 PM

Participating in a walking group may dramatically improve overall health with little to no adverse effect, U.K. researchers reported.  A systemic review and meta-analysis of forty-two studies found participants of group walking showed significant reduction in mean differences for systolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, body mass index (BMI), and total cholesterol.

"Walking groups are effective and safe with good adherence and wide ranging health benefits," authors wrote.  "They could be a promising intervention as an adjunct to other healthcare, or as a proactive health-promoting activity."

The study looked at 5,145 citations and identified 42 studies. A total of 1,843 participants walked in outdoor walking groups with at least 1,488 hours of provision and a total of 74,023 hours of participant walking time. Participants involved in this study were from 14 different countries and had a wide range of long-term conditions, including arthritis, dementia, diabetes, fibromyalgia, obesity/overweight, mental health issues, and Parkinson's disease.

The levels of walking were varied in duration and intensity, ranging from 168 to 8,580 minutes of walking over a period of 3 weeks to 1 year, with intensity ranging from self-selected and low to brisk walking and high-intensity intervals. Mean adherence, where stated, was 75%.

The meta-analysis showed statistically significant reductions in mean difference for:

  • Systolic blood pressure: -3.72 mm Hg 

  • Diastolic blood pressure: -3.14 mm Hg 

  • Resting heart rate: -2.88 bpm 

  • Body fat: -1.31% 

  • BMI: -0.71 kg/m2

  • Total cholesterol: -0.11 mmol/L 

Looking specifically at blood pressure, a population survey-based study demonstrated that a reduction of 2 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure could lower coronary heart risk by 6% and stroke and trans-ischemic attacks by 15%.  A more recent study noted that a reduction of 2 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure could reduce stroke mortality by 10% and mortality from vascular causes in a middle-age population by 7%.