National Walking Month has been celebrated in the United States during the month of May since 2007. It was first introduced by the American Health Association as a way to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle, and to promote walking as a tried-and-true method for consistent and enjoyable exercise.
But walking as a form of communal activity has a much longer history. In fact, the world’s oldest surviving group for walkers, Germany’s Schwarzwaldverein (Black Forest Club), was founded all the way back in 1864!
These days, walking is one of the most popular activities on Meetup. There are nearly 2,800 Meetup walking groups spanning the globe, totaling more than 4.4 million Meetup members! Opportunities to pursue this fundamental exercise with like-minded people are out there—you just have to put one foot in front of the other.
Read on to learn more about the specific health benefits of walking, and to discover the fun ways Meetup groups incorporate walking into their routine.
Why walking can be so good for you
The major benefits of walking are well-known, and universally acknowledged as important factors in overall health. These include:
- Cardiovascular fitness and heart health
- Stronger lungs
- Weight control through calorie burning
- Better mental health through endorphins, time spent outdoors, and mindful activity
However, there are many more positive aspects to regular walking that sometimes go under the radar. These surprising benefits of walking, in addition to the more obvious ones listed above, have been described as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug” by the former director of the CDC.
For example, if you take up a walking habit because you’re watching your waistline, you might be surprised to discover that this exercise not only gets your heart rate up, but actually works on your brain to curb cravings. British researchers have found that just a 15-minute walk helps reduce people’s intake of sugary snacks. They’ve established a link between the stress reduction aspect of walking, and how feeling stressed less often leads to fewer instances of over-indulgence in sweets.
If part of your motivation to develop a consistent walking routine is protecting your long-term physical health, you’ll be happy to learn about walking’s impact on joint pain. As you age, your body’s many joints can begin to deteriorate. But studies show that walking five or six miles over the course of a week helps reduce pain by lubricating joints in the knees and hips, as well as strengthening the muscles that support those joints. In fact, consistent walking can prevent arthritis and other joint issues from ever forming in the first place.
How to maintain a healthy walking routine
One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable to a new walking goal is to share that responsibility with others! Walking groups not only provide great opportunities for making new friends, but they also inspire a real sense of community in which individual self-improvement becomes much easier to achieve together. Here are just a few examples of the amazing and diverse walking groups on Meetup:
- Central Park NYC Ever Walk — Ann Marie Rakovic, the organizer of this popular Meetup group of nearly 2,100 members, recently spoke about the transformational power of walking on the Keep Connected podcast. This is a conversational walking group that gathers weekly for casual exercise and human connection in one of the world’s most famous parks.
- Dallas Walk With A Doc Meetup Group — A community of nearly 150 members who take the opportunity to stroll through local parks with a physician, ask questions, and learn about the health benefits of walking!
- Walking Across Chicago — This community of more than 1,800 members mixes exercise with history and culture, making their way week after week through all the neighborhoods of the Windy City. In addition to having fun and staying fit, the goal is to create a narrative thread weaving together a new appreciation for the whole of Chicago.
- Nashville Easy Hikes – Hiking and Walking Outdoors — A Meetup group of nearly 1,700 members interested in hiking and walking outdoors in the Nashville area, without feeling intimidated by steep climbs or grueling paces.
If you don’t see a good fit in your local community, you can easily create your own Meetup group and invite others to walk alongside you toward a healthier future.
Last modified on May 23, 2023