Keeping Walkers Engaged

It’s important to find ways to retain members once the walking club has been established. These tips may help.

3 older adults taking a break from exercise by sitting on a curb

Make It Convenient

  • Find times and days that work for the group. Be willing to alter the schedule when needed.
  • Locate walks near sources of public transportation and/or places with adequate parking.
  • Accommodate different fitness levels if necessary. For example, consider subdividing the group into brisk walkers and casual strollers, with each group having a walk leader.
  • Schedule breaks during the walk. If possible, plan breaks near benches or other places where it’s easy to sit down.
  • In summer, schedule outdoor walks early in the morning before it gets too hot. Look for shady routes.
  • During bad weather, schedule walks at an indoor facility like a senior center, a shopping mall, or community center.
  • Have music playing during indoor walks.
  • Schedule walks around other regularly scheduled classes, social activities, or exercise programs.

Senior companions having talk in cafe while eating

Make It Social

  • To create a sense of solidarity, create t-shirts with your club’s name and provide them to members to wear during walks.
  • If walking club t-shirts aren’t a possibility, designate a different color for each walk and ask members to wear t-shirts or tops in that color.
  • Have group singalongs of well-known tunes during the walk.
  • Encourage walkers to bring a friend.
  • Have a coffee hour after walks.
  • Occasionally schedule a healthy breakfast or lunch after walks.
  • Encourage the buddy system, especially for slower walkers.
  • Encourage carpooling to and from the walk site for companionship.
  • Schedule get togethers outside of the walks.
  • If walking in or around a library, start a book club that could meet after walks.

Portrait of a group of enthusiastic women working out together outdoors

Make It Motivating

  • Have a walk leader (or leaders) for the club.
  • Have the walk leader sign up for free Go4Life e-alerts and coaching tips and forward them to walkers between walks to stay in touch and promote the four exercise types Go4Life recommends for older adults: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.
  • Encourage walkers to use apps and wearable devices to map distances walked and steps taken.
  • Encourage walkers to total up miles individually and as a group.
  • Issue challenges: most miles walked, most times participating, the newcomer, the person who’s been in the club the longest, etc.
  • Hold a yearly awards lunch or dinner and give out awards for those who meet or exceed the challenges.

senior hiker pointing at something on misty mountain

Make It Interesting

  • Invite speakers on topics related to exercise, walking, and the outdoors. For example,
    • a fitness trainer or shoe expert could talk about the right sneakers and how to be fitted properly.
    • a person could speak about mosquito repellents and sunscreen.
    • an expert might describe architectural and/or historical features seen along the walk route.
    • an arborist or park ranger could provide commentary on the natural environment.
  • If budget allows, provide each walker with a wireless headset to hear the tour guide when walking further behind.
  • Make sure the guide stops periodically to let the entire group reassemble and any stragglers catch up.
  • Schedule an art walk where works of art are displayed for observation and discussion along the way. An art walk can sometimes be done in partnership with Parks and Recreation groups or with cultural arts organizations.
  • Schedule a poetry walk during which walkers read and discuss the poetry on placards placed along the walking trail. A poetry walk can sometimes be done in partnership with Parks and Recreation Departments or libraries. Poetry walks may be of special interest to those who need frequent walk breaks.
  • Hold a “geocaching” walk, a kind of scavenger hunt where walkers use GPS on their mobile devices to find specific objects in a park or other natural environments. Online information and free, downloadable apps are available to help you get started.