Before starting a walking club for older adults, consider what kind of structure you want for the club, how you will organize it, who your club members will be, how you will communicate with them, and how you will sustain the club.
Here are some questions to consider as you create a walking club.
- Structure: What kind of group do you want to organize? A group of friends and family members? A regular ongoing event for anyone who shows up? A more formal group requiring signup and sign-ins? How large do you want it to be? Decide on a manageable size for your club.
- Local Partners: Can you team up with a local organization that can help you attract members and promote the club? Organizations might include: community, recreation, or senior centers; parks or libraries; book clubs; fraternities and sororities; and faith-based organizations. You might even want to develop an intergenerational walk with a neighborhood school.
- Leaders: Who will lead the club? Might you want more than one leader? Some walking clubs like to have two leaders—one to lead and one to walk behind with people who keep a slower pace. Will your leader(s) be volunteer or paid? If paid, will you charge membership fees, or could you find a local community partner willing to help support your effort?
- Club Members: Do you already have a group in mind, or do you need to attract members to your new walking club? You may want to start with a small group of family and friends, or you may be seeking a community-wide club, in which case you will need to recruit walkers. (For more, see Recruiting Walkers.)
- Kick-Off Meeting: Arrange to hold meeting at a local community center, library or other public and easily accessible location. Decide on a name for the club. Discuss goals for the club and details about the proposed walking activities. For more about the kick- off meeting and other organizing details, see “How to Start a Keep Moving Walking Club” from Go4Life partner Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA).
- Places to Walk: Will you walk on a city street? In a park? A residential neighborhood? A shopping mall? A rural area? Whatever location you decide on, consider safety, weather, convenience, and level of difficulty. Test out the walking route beforehand to determine its appropriateness. Have a backup plan for bad weather if your normal route is outdoors. (For more on safe places to walk, see Safety First.)
- Walkability Audit: A walkability audit is designed to broadly assess pedestrian facilities, destinations and surroundings along and near a walking route (and also to identify specific improvements that would make the route more attractive and useful to pedestrians). You may wish to use this walkability audit tool (PDF, 39K) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help assess the safety and attractiveness of walking routes you are considering.
- Days, Times: Select a day(s) and time(s) that you think will be most convenient for older walkers. Decide how often and how far you will walk. Seeing how many steps are recommended for daily physical activity may help your club set walking goals.
- Tracking Progress: Decide if you would like to track individual and/or group progress. If so, these tracking tools may be helpful:
- Endurance Daily Walking Record (PDF, 135K) — To be used for brisk walking
- Monthly Progress Test (PDF, 205K) — To measure improvement in endurance
- Sample Walking Program (PDF, 3M) — To establish a plan for frequency and length of walks
- Weekly Walking Journal (PDF, 30K) – To log steps, miles, and minutes walked
- Waivers: Decide if you will need liability waivers for your club in case of injury. Make sure people include emergency contact information on their waivers.
- Communication: Consider establishing a newsletter and using email or a social media platform like Facebook as way to stay in regular touch with club members. Use these tools to remind members of walking dates and notify them of scheduling changes. Emails and social media posts can also be used to keep people motivated and provide tips on other types of exercise to do when not walking. Leaders may also wish to sign up for weekly Go4Life exercise coaching tips and forward them to members as way to keep in regular contact.