Towards an understanding of walking groups as a health promoting intervention

Hanson, Sarah (2016) Towards an understanding of walking groups as a health promoting intervention. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

Low levels of physical activity are a major cause of disease burden. This presents a serious health challenge. Despite the benefits of physical activity being widely promoted, inactivity remains pernicious. This is compounded by physical activity interventions tending to be placed in more affluent areas and taken up by those who are more educated and in better health.
Outdoor group walks have the potential to be a useful health intervention as they increase physical activity and are cost effective. However, a more extensive understanding is needed before they can be more widely promoted. This thesis sought to address this. Using mixed methods, it assessed any health benefits from group walking. It then evaluated their potential to influence health inequity. Finally, it sought to make recommendations to more effectively promote, and recruit to, walking groups for those people in poorest health.
This thesis demonstrates the wide ranging psychological and physiological benefits from walking groups. With good adherence and virtually no adverse effects they can be safely and confidently recommended by clinicians. Their potential to increase inequity has also been demonstrated. Firstly, they may not be set up in those areas in greatest need. Secondly, the lack of a ‘bottom-up’ community partnership approach precludes reach into deprived communities and long term sustainability. Thirdly, without effective partnerships and promotion of walking groups by health professionals, targeted recruitment of the most inactive and those in poorest health remains problematic. Finally, promoting the social element of group-based interventions creates a barrier to those who find such expectations inhibiting; rather better to give clear tangible advice about their health promoting benefits.
Outdoor walking groups are a safe and effective health promoting intervention but they should be developed and promoted judiciously to target those who would benefit the most and avoid potentially increasing intervention based inequity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Norwich Medical School
Depositing User: Mia Reeves
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2016 13:46
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2016 13:46
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/59466
DOI:

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