How to Start a Walking Group Resource
This link is a printable resource to help you plan and start a walking group including a survey of questions for fellow walkers that will help you determine when, how often, where and how to organize your walks.
Why Start a Walking Group at Work
Start a walking group at your workplace so you and your colleagues will have an opportunity to be physically active during the workday. Many people find it hard to fit physical activity into their schedule so why not try going for a 10 -20 minute brisk walk at work. Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines recommend a minimum of 10-minute intervals of activity in order to accumulate a total of 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous activity to stay healthy or improve your health. Walking is easy and inexpensive. You will be surprised at how good you will feel, your stress level will be reduced, and you will feel energized.
Pedometers are helpful tools to improve awareness and encourage people to increase the amount they walk every day. It is recommended that adults work up to 10,000 steps a day or more. For tips and tools on how to use a pedometer have a look at this resource from the Physical Activity Resource Centre. There are also many apps you can download on your phone that can count your steps.
How is a walking group organized?
- 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 none of your co-workers are too intimidated to continue.
- Encourage your colleagues to take walking breaks instead of coffee breaks in order to get some fresh air. Promote a noon-hour walking group.
- Take a friend to help you map out a safe route that takes between 15 and 40 minutes 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 if your workspace is not conducive to walking.
- Gradually increase the challenge by, increasing the length of time, speed or distance your walking group spends walking gradually, so that everyone is motivated to keep on walking. If you have a large enough group, it will allow different people to go at different speeds and for different times and distances. For example groups could all go on an out and back walk and set out for the same set time, turn around at a specific time and come back so that everyone meets back at the same time no matter what pace they are walking.
- Track your walking group’s progress on a graph or poster in a main foyer, staff room or on a workplace website/facebook page to inspire others to join.
- Hold a contest or challenge between departments.
- Host a nutritious potluck before or after your walking groups noon-hour walk.
- Check with staff. Ask your colleagues when they would prefer to walk. Some people need a "pick me up" in the morning while others require one in the later afternoon. Use the survey in the how to start a walking group resource to help figure out the best time to meet.
- Continue to promote your walking group and report on the group's progress so that this healthy habit is sustained at your workplace!
- Try your local trails.
Things for Walkers to Consider:
- Wear appropriate shoes. Nothing could be more discouraging than blistered sore feet at the end of a walk.
- Dress for the weather.
- Practice sun safety year round. Apply sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 15, 30 minutes before going outside. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Keep hydrated, walkers should bring a bottle of water with them.
- Stretch after a short five minute warm-up and/or after your walk. This will prevent stiff muscles.
- Keep Track. Encourage individual walkers in the group to record their progress on a calendar, on their phones, or in a journal.
Interested in joining a walking group? Check out Get WITH (Walking In The Halls) It or these existing walking groups.
Physical Activity and Shift Work
Believe it or not there are immediate benefits to physical activity for shift workers such as improved sleep and less stress. There are also many important long-term benefits such as: reduced risk of heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, colon and breast cancer, osteoporosis and depression.
While working a night or day shift, establish a wake up routine and try to make physical activity a part of it. Take your dog for a walk or turn on an exercise video on your TV or computer and work out at home (there are many online videos available to try). Once you make it to work try and come up with ways to incorporate short bouts of physical activity throughout your shift. You could take a break and go for a quick walk outside or simply stand up and stretch for a few minutes.
You may learn that your colleagues who are working similar shifts are interested in joining a league or team. This should be easy to book during the day, when fields and recreation facilities are less used. Walking groups, mountain-biking tours or skiing outdoors are also fun to organize for the outdoorsy types.
When you finally get that well deserved time off, use every opportunity to be active with your family and friends, plan a hiking trip, a day of skating or a canoe trip as a main activity. You will be surprised to find how alert you feel and how well you will be able to sleep afterwards.
To ensure that you will be able to fall asleep relatively easily do not exercise vigorously two hours before your major sleep of the day.
Keep track of your exercise and establish goals in a journal or a log. You will feel great when you obtain your goals and gain control over your health and well-being.