If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can improve your heart health, increase muscle tone, and get an invigorating dose of fresh air and sunshine. But if you can take that same walk with a group of enthusiastic individuals, the experience will be elevated to a whole new dimension.
Surrounded by eager friends and neighbors, members of active adult communities all over the country are seeking out the comradery of Walking Clubs, reaping social, spiritual, and emotional rewards that are as important as any physical benefits.
It’s free, it’s easy, and according to the American Heart Association, joining a Walking Club is highly motivational. The stats show participants are 76% more likely to stick to the walking routine because others are counting on them. They also walk faster and farther in a group than on their own.
Follow these 5 easy steps for guidance on how to start a Walking Club and soon you’ll be hitting your stride with a group of your own.
When choosing your walking buddies, consider your fitness level and the walking speed at which you feel most comfortable. Will you be strolling or power walking? Or somewhere in between? If you walk at a good pace, you’ll want at least a few friends who can keep up. Otherwise, instead of relaxed conversation, you’ll have a shouting match with walkers 50 paces behind you.
And speaking of conversation, are you interested in a Walking Club that focuses on a shared interest? For example, if you are a history buff, is your dream club a group of Civil War aficionados? Or are you looking to take your book club on the road? Perhaps you are a person with a certain physical limitation or condition and would prefer to enlist walkers with similar circumstances. Or, if you are a newcomer to an active adult community, you may want to spearhead a newcomers Walking Club and create new relationships as you maintain fitness.
Think about 5-15 members. Less than 5 could easily fall apart when people have other commitments, and more than 15 becomes difficult to navigate. If you want a sunrise walk, be sure to choose walkers who are morning people. Otherwise, they’ll push the snooze button and you’ll be walking alone!
Commit to a time that works for the group, and your starting line will be filled with eager walkers every time you meet. Consider changing the routine with the seasons. Walks during the steamier summer months may need to start a little earlier or later to avoid the heat of the day. Whether your group decides on a morning, afternoon or evening walk, you will want to aim for a frequency of at least once or twice a week for at least an hour of moderately intense walking.
Consider a meeting place that is conveniently located. That 30-minute drive to your favorite scenic spot will get old quickly and walkers will be less inclined to show up. That said, a walk with a view is always enjoyable, so look for hiking trails, waterfront walkways or neighborhoods with historic homes.
If you are going to a park, make sure your path is both free and safe. Find out if the area is patrolled and well maintained. Don’t forget to scout out restrooms and water fountains. If you’re evening walkers, make sure the path is lighted.
When dealing with a spectrum of fitness levels, it’s important to keep the hills to a minimum. You will also want to avoid heavily trafficked areas that will make the walk less tranquil.
It’s likely your group will consist of walkers who exercise at different speeds. There will be a natural rhythm as you walk, with some group members in the lead and some bringing up the rear. Some groups practice “looping,” which means the faster walkers double back at some point to rejoin the stragglers, so everyone can mix and mingle again. This keeps the slower walkers from feeling they are holding up the works and gives the faster members the extra steps they are looking for.
Yes, you are out there pounding the pavement to maintain fitness. But creating a Walking Club is also about having fun with contemporaries, nurturing relationships, and sharing new experiences. As the leader, you can keep the group smiling and engaged by instilling team spirit with plenty of cheering and encouragement. Recognize achievement milestones like 25, 50, or 100 miles. Share group triumphs on Facebook. A little incentive goes a long way and makes Walking Club an important, fun, memorable activity that members always look forward to.
The right Walking Club is waiting for you at the Overture community of your choice. Act now to join a welcoming community of active adults to celebrate this exciting new chapter of life.