An evaluation of a walking scheme based in primary care: the participants' perspective
Exercise promotion schemes often fail to keep people exercising after the first few months. However, schemes that promote walking have been associated with longer-term adherence to exercise. Health Walks is a community-based exercise programme that emphasizes brisk walking activity. In the first year of an important new scheme in the Thames Valley, over 700 people took part. A survey was designed to determine the motivation of the participants and the benefits of the scheme. It was mailed to all of the participants in the scheme, of whom 48% replied. The evaluation found that 90% of participants said that they would continue walking on the scheme. In addition to physical fitness, the countryside and the social aspects of the walks were important motivating factors. The majority of the participants were women, in higher social classes and over 50 years of age, indicating the efficacy of this type of activity for older participants. The average number of walks taken each month was only three, yet participants perceived that there were health benefits. This may be due to the additional exercise which participants engaged in outside the organized scheme. Over half of the participants said that they were doing more walking, in addition to the Health Walks, and relied on their car less for short journeys. Primary care groups and trusts only need to provide minimal support to develop and co-ordinate walking schemes, in contrast to traditional exercise prescription schemes. Further research is needed to examine whether ‘walking for health’ schemes encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles.(Published Online October 31 2006)
Key Words: health promotion; health walks; physical activity; primary care; walking.
c1 Address for correspondence: Andrew Ashley, Oxford Centre for Health Care Research and Development, Oxford Brookes University, 44 London Rd, Oxford OX3 7AD, UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org