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Walking and Walking Clubs

Why Walk?

Walking is the top-ranked physical activity among adult Canadians. Walking is gentle on the body, with limited risk of injury, and does not require practice or experience. It can be a social event, with friends and family, or relaxing time alone.

Walking regularly helps to:

  • make you feel good
  • relieve stress, anxiety, tension and depression
  • make your body stronger
  • give you energy and increase stamina
  • improve sleep
  • improve self-esteem
  • lower the risk of developing many chronic diseases

For health benefits, walking should be done at a moderate to vigorous pace.

Use the intensity talk test below to determine if you are walking fast enough:

  • I can Sing! Breathing normally, not sweating – Light Intensity (Pick up the Pace!)
  • I can talk but I can’t sing! Starting to breathe harder and/or sweating a bit – Moderate Intensity
  • I can’t carry on a conversation! Breathing hard and/or sweating a lot – Vigorous Intensity
  • Walk to and from work.
  • Walk during your lunch hour.
  • Find different spots to walk, to keep it interesting.
  • Check out local trails.
  • Visit and walk around different towns.
  • Look in your newspaper for local events.
  • Vary your pace: do short bursts of walking as fast as you can (1–2 minutes).
  • Get a walking buddy.
  • Vary your distances. Try short walks of 10–15 minutes and other longer walks of 30–60 minutes.
  • Start your walk into the wind so that you can finish it with the wind at your back, or choose paths that are sheltered from the wind.
  • Bring food, water, and a cell phone.
  • Dress for the weather: warmer layers in the winter, lighter layers in the spring and fall. Consider bringing dry clothes to change into after your walk, and extra mitts, hat and a blanket when it’s cold.
  • Let others know where you are going, and/or walk with a friend.
  • Wear reflective clothing in case it gets dark during your walk.
  • Watch for cars as they may have trouble seeing you in the winter. Snow banks, falling snow or rain, and blocked sidewalks can make it a challenge for drivers to see walkers).
  • Plan for breaks along the way, such as restrooms, places to warm up or shady places to cool down.
  • Visit the Winter Safety Tip Sheet.
  • Keep track of where, how far and how often you walk. Try pushing yourself to walk further, harder, faster and more often.
  • Try using a heart rate monitor to see how hard you are working.
  • Walk with a buddy or a group. Knowing others are going to be there may help you to keep walking.
  • Make it a family affair. Plan family walks after dinner or on weekends.
  • Use your walk time to enjoy others company. Find new and interesting places to explore.
  • Walk your dog. Dogs need daily exercise, which helps to get you walking. Don’t have a dog? Offer to walk the neighbours’ dog, or volunteer at a local animal shelter as a dog walker.
  • Spread the word – use email, text, social media, and posters to get people interested.
  • Ask your friends to join you. This will motivate others to get started.
  • Make it fun and unstructured. Start slowly so that others are not too intimidated to continue.
  • Encourage your friends and colleagues to take walking breaks instead of coffee breaks in order to get some fresh air. Promote a noon-hour walking group.
  • Map out safe routes. Consider short, medium and long routes so that people at all fitness levels may enjoy their walk.
  • Create an indoor walking route in case of poor weather. Go to a local mall or arena.
  • Gradually increase the challenge by increasing the length of time, speed or distance your group spends walking. If you have a large enough group, it will allow different people to go at different speeds and distances. For example, groups could all go on an out and back walk. The group all leaves at the same time, turns around at a set time (example, after 30 minutes) and comes back. This allows everyone to walk at their own, healthy pace, and meet back at the same time.
  • Track your walking group’s progress. Keep track of where, how far and how often your group walks. Try pushing your group to walk further, harder, faster and more often.
  • Keep track of where your group has walked. Consider changing up the scenery, and trying a new, local trail. Map out your whereabouts for all to see.
  • Share your experiences on social media. This may inspire others to join your walking group.
  • Hold a contest or challenge other walkers. Set individual goals and work towards them. If at work, you can challenge other departments or offices.
  • Host a nutritious potluck before or after your walk.
  • Check with friends and colleagues. Find out when they would prefer to walk. Some people need a “pick me up” in the morning while others require one in the later afternoon, after work or in the evening. Use the survey in the how to start a walking group resource to help figure out the best time to walk.
  • Continue to promote your walking group and report on the group’s progress so that this healthy habit is sustained!
  • To get going, have a look at the start a walking club resource.
  • Looking to walk in the winter? Check out this video for walking leaders.