People can be encouraged to walk for up to 30-60 minutes more per week if they are given the right kind of help, finds a study published on bmj.com today. This could make a valuable contribution to improving public health.
Physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer of the colon, write David Ogilvie and colleagues for the Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (SPARColl). Walking is a free and convenient way to be active, and most people can continue walking into old age. Promoting walking could therefore help tackle the health problems linked to today's inactive lifestyles.
The authors reviewed 48 studies of different approaches to promoting walking. The most successful were tailored to people's needs and targeted at sedentary people or at those most motivated to change. These increased walking in the target groups by up to 30-60 minutes a week on average, at least in the short term. Given how little exercise most people take, this amounts to a substantial increase, say the authors.
The authors found that walking could be encouraged in a variety of ways. Examples included giving face to face advice or telephone support, using pedometers, or promoting walking as an environmentally friendly mode of transport. Different people may respond to different approaches, say the authors. One size may not fit all, and a range of options should be offered, they conclude.