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Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Hanson, Sarah 
Jones, Andy 


OBJECTIVE: To assess the health benefits of outdoor walking groups. DESIGN: 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. DATA SOURCES: Seven electronic databases, clinical trial registers, grey literature and reference lists in English language up to November 2013. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Adults, group walking outdoors with outcomes directly attributable to the walking intervention. RESULTS: 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/m(2) (-1.19 to -0.23), total cholesterol -0.11 mmol/L (-0.22 to -0.01) and statistically significant mean increases in VO(2max) 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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.



Physical activity, Walking, Adult, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Epidemiologic Methods, Female, Health Behavior, Health Promotion, Heart Rate, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Self-Help Groups, Walking

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Br J Sports Med

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Economic and Social Research Council (ES/G007462/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/K023187/1)
Wellcome Trust (087636/Z/08/Z)
This work was partially supported by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. Funding from the British Heart Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank William Jones, faculty librarian for his help in the search strategy and Dr Toby Smith for helpful advice and comments.