Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis
Sarah Hanson, Andy Jones
9 November 2014
Regular physical activity positively impacts health potentially offering similar effects to some drug interventions in terms of mortality benefits. Indeed, it has been suggested as an alternative or adjunct to conventional drug therapy. Walking at a pace of 3–5 m/h (5–8 km/h) expends sufficient energy to be classified as moderate intensity2 and is an easy and accessible way of meeting physical activity recommendations.
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have shown walking to have various health benefits including:
- positive effects on fitness
- fatness and resting blood pressure
- blood pressure control
- weight loss
- cardiovascular disease risk prevention
To assess the health benefits of outdoor walking groups.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of walking group interventions examining differences in commonly used physiological, psychological and well-being outcomes between baseline and intervention end.
Seven electronic databases, clinical trial registers, grey literature and reference lists in English language up to November 2013.
Adults, group walking outdoors with outcomes directly attributable to the walking intervention.
Forty-two studies were identified involving 1843 participants. There is evidence that walking groups have wide-ranging health benefits. Meta-analysis showed statistically significant reductions in mean difference for systolic blood pressure −3.72 mm Hg (−5.28 to −2.17) and diastolic blood pressure −3.14 mm Hg (−4.15 to −2.13); resting heart rate −2.88 bpm (−4.13 to −1.64); body fat −1.31% (−2.10 to −0.52), body mass index −0.71 kg/m2 (−1.19 to −0.23), total cholesterol −0.11 mmol/L (−0.22 to −0.01) and statistically significant mean increases in VO2max of 2.66 mL/kg/min (1.67 3.65), the SF-36 (physical functioning) score 6.02 (0.51 to 11.53) and a 6 min walk time of 79.6 m (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, SF-36 (mental health) and serum lipids such as high density lipids.
There were no notable adverse side effects reported in any of the studies.
Walking groups are effective and safe with good adherence and wide-ranging health benefits. They could be a promising intervention as an adjunct to other healthcare or as a proactive health-promoting activity.