How and why you should join an over-50s walking group
Walk in good company
Walking with a bunch of like-minded souls is always wonderful. But as we get older it’s more important than ever. In later life it can be more of a challenge to stay both physically and socially active. Joining a walking group helps us commit to regular exercise and it gives us a chance to connect with other people. And there’s no better exercise than the sort that you can’t wait to do.
Why you should walk into your 50s, and beyond
For your physical health
Experts recommend we do at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. But that doesn’t have to mean sweating it out in the gym. As a low-impact (and low-cost) exercise, walking is ideal for ageing bodies, and still offers huge benefits. Taking regular walks can decrease the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and even some cancers. It can aid weight loss, increase bone strength and improve balance, reducing the risk of falls.
Walking a few times a week can even help manage chronic conditions and reduce symptoms. Ramblers Wellbeing Walks are perfect for those living with an illness or starting a wellness journey. The supportive leaders will help anyone take their first steps into walking for exercise.
For your mental health
Walking is as good for our minds as it is for our bodies. Being active out in nature has been proven to lift mood and reduce stress and anxiety in people of all ages. “After I have been on a walk, I come home happy,” says Les. “I’m looking forward to the next one.”
There’s something inherently therapeutic about walking side-by-side with someone too. “I’ve found that while you’re walking you have really good conversations,” says Mary. “You end up talking about all kinds of things that you probably just wouldn’t talk about if you were sat face to face.”
For making friends
As we get older, it can feel harder to meet new people. In extreme cases this can lead to loneliness and social isolation which can have a hugely detrimental effect on our health. And the longer we feel that way, the harder it can be to get back out there. Joining a walking group is a brilliant way to meet me people.
“When I went on my very first Ramblers group walk, I went on my own. I turned up not knowing anyone else, but I found them all very welcoming,” says Mary. “Lots of friendships have been made in our group, with many members doing things socially outside of the group walks.”
Don’t be surprised if you make lifelong friends.
It’s vital to stay curious as we age. It helps keep our brains firing and our memories sharper. And no matter how old we are or how much we’ve experienced, there’s always more to learn. Group walks will introduce you to new routes, new landscapes and new people.
“I love being a Rambler because it has led me to places I didn’t know I wanted to go, with people I didn’t know I wanted to spend time with, and who I would not have met through the other parts of my life,” says Les.
“I really enjoy walking with people,” adds Barry. “It’s definitely not about a race to get from A to B as fast as possible but rather it’s about telling a story, and talking to people about what we’re seeing and passing.”
It can be daunting to head out on a walk. Especially if we haven’t done it for a while or are new to rambling. Joining a group removes the stress of navigating. The walk leader will take care of that. It’s comforting to know other people are on hand to help should any accidents occur too. “There is always a front and back marker walker on each group walk so you won’t get lost,” says Barry, “and we’ll make sure you get any advice you might need about walking.”
For encouragement and motivation
If our back is stiff, we’re not feeling 100% or the rain is starting to fall, it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise. But being part of a group makes it easier, says Mary: “Having others to walk with is really helpful encouragement to make sure you do go out whatever the weather, and particularly for those long walks!”
Having a communal goal will also keep us going when we might otherwise have given up. The distraction and camaraderie of being in a group will help get us up that hill or through that final mile. The promise of celebrating the achievement together over a coffee or pub lunch afterwards might even put an extra spring in our step.
How to find an over-50s walking group
Use the Ramblers Group Finder search to look for groups near you. Each group has its own info page, with details of their walks and social events and how you can get in touch.
If you’re unsure, just give it a try. You can join up to 3 walks before committing. Becoming a Ramblers member costs from just £3.21 per month. Plus being a member enables you to join any Ramblers walking group. Great if you’re visiting a different area and want to meet up with others for a stroll.
All images © Getty
With over 500 Ramblers groups right across Britain there’s probably one (or more) near you. Here’s how and why you should join one for a sociable stroll.
Discover how walking can reward you with huge health benefits including a boost in mood. And it’s fun!