Before A Walk

Before a walk, it is important for walkers to know the walking route and the time allotted for the walk. They should also check to make sure they have the necessary items with them and that they warm up.

Getting to the Walk Location

Choose a walking route that is easily accessible by public transportation and/or provides adequate parking. For older adults who no longer drive, consider:

  • carpooling.
  • ride-hailing services.
  • beginning and ending the walk near locations with good public transportation.
  • utilizing other community transportation options for older residents.

Take a Head Count

  • Count heads to make sure you know how many people are taking part in the walk. Ask walkers to let you know if they choose to leave the group early.
  • Members, and especially walk leaders, should have on their cell phones a list of everyone’s cell phone number in case someone needs to be contacted by phone during or after the walk.

red and grey sneakers with grey shoelaces and red towel, green apple, bottle with water, mobile phone with white headphones on wooden background indoors

Checklist of Items

Make sure walkers have everything they may need (PDF, 30K), including:

  • shoes with flat, non-skid soles, good heel support, enough room for your toes, and a cushioned arch that’s not too high or too thick.
  • socks to cushion and protect the feet and help keep them dry.
  • clothes that feel comfortable during a walk.
  • an ID with emergency contact information, a mobile phone, and a small amount of cash.
  • a hat or visor for the sun, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
  • a hat and scarf to cover the head and ears when it’s cold outside.
  • layers of clothing in cold weather that can be removed as a person warms up.
  • waterproof clothing to avoid getting wet if it rains.
  • step counters or other wearable devices to keep track of steps taken.
  • water to drink before, during, and after the walk.

senior man talking with friends in park

Instructions from the Walk Leader

Before the walk starts, the walk leader should make the following points.

  • Describe the walk route and its end point.
  • Indicate the time allotted for the walk.
  • Remind those wearing pedometers or other wearable devices to reset them so they can track their steps.
  • If necessary, divide the group into brisk walkers and casual strollers. Each sub-group may choose to have a walk leader, or not.
  • Indicate whether there will be time for breaks and where those will occur.
  • Remind walkers to be alert to their surroundings, even while chatting. They should look out for any uneven pavement, low hanging tree branches, debris on the ground or other items that might be unsafe. Ask them to alert the leader and other walkers if they come upon such obstacles.

Warm Up

senior Japanese man in pink wear doing calf stretch by tree at natural park

Always include a warm up. You may warm up before your walk by walking more slowly for a few minutes before picking up the pace. If you choose to stretch, do it after you warm up. The walk leader(s) may wish to print the photos of the following Go4Life stretching exercises and instructions and read them to the group as they stretch.

  • Thigh Stretch — Use a tree, a wall, a railing or another sturdy surface for this exercise which stretches your thigh muscles. If you’ve had hip or back surgery, talk with your doctor before trying this stretch.
  • Ankle Stretch — Use a bench or chair for this exercise, which stretches your ankle muscles. You can stretch both ankles at once or one at a time.
  • Calf Stretch — Use a tree, a wall, a railing or another sturdy surface for this exercise. Because many people have tight calf muscles, it’s important to stretch them.
  • Neck Stretch — This easy stretch can help relieve tension in your neck.

Stretch Safely

  • Do each stretch slowly and move only as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Stretching may feel slightly uncomfortable; for example, a mild pulling feeling is normal.
  • Always remember to breathe normally while holding a stretch.
  • You are stretching too far if you feel sharp or stabbing pain, or joint pain while doing the stretch, or even the next day. Reduce the stretch so that it doesn’t hurt.
  • Never “bounce” into a stretch. Make slow, steady movements instead. Jerking into position can cause muscles to tighten, possibly causing injury.
  • Avoid “locking” your joints. Straighten your arms and legs when you stretch them, but don’t hold them tightly in a straight position. Your joints should always be slightly bent while stretching.

Log Steps and Distances

  • Encourage the use of apps, pedometers, or other wearable devices to map distances walked and steps taken.
  • Members may wish to set walking goals after seeing how many steps are recommended for daily physical activity.

Have a Backup Plan for Bad Weather

If the weather is bad, here are some options.

  • Arrange to walk at a shopping mall or at a gym or indoor track at a school or college.
  • Find a location, such as a local library, where you can do Go4Life strength, flexibility, and balance exercises.
  • Email walkers and encourage in-home walking or marching in place.
  • Email walkers and encourage use of Go4Life online workout videos.

group of walkers in matching shirts

To Enhance the Experience

  • To create a sense of solidarity, create t-shirts with your club’s name and provide them to members to wear during walks.
  • Encourage carpooling to or from the walk site to support transportation needs and for companionship.
  • Encourage the buddy system, especially for slower walkers.