Safety First

There are many safety issues to consider when organizing a walking club. Read the important safety information below and share it with members of your club.

Should people see a doctor before they start walking?

Because exercise is good for most people at all ages, most people do not need to see a doctor before they start a walking program. However, you should check with your doctor if you:

  • have a chronic health problem such as a heart condition, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • are over 40 years old and have been inactive.

You also should talk with your doctor if, while walking, you get dizzy, feel faint or short of breath, or have chest, neck, shoulder, or arm pain.

Shoes and Attire

Make sure your clothes and footwear are both comfortable and safe for you to be active. Try items on to make sure you have the proper fit. Keep the following things in mind as you shop.

Shoes

orange and blue shoes

Your shoes are an important part of your physical activity routine, including walking. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

  • Choose 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.
  • Make sure the shoes fit well and provide proper support for your feet.
  • Check your shoes regularly and replace them when they’re worn out. You need new shoes when:
    • the tread is worn out.
    • your feet feel tired after activity.
    • your shins, knees, or hips hurt after activity.

A multiethnic group of senior adults are walking through the park on a winter day.

Attire

  • Choose clothes that are comfortable and let you move easily.
  • Wear clothes that let air circulate and moisture evaporate.
  • In cold weather, wear layers, such as a jacket or top over a t-shirt, so you can take off layers as you warm up.
  • In hot weather, wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing made of natural fabrics.
  • In warm, sunny weather, be sure to wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun.

Have a Safe Walk

Remember that some places are safer than others when you’re walking outdoors. Keep safety in mind when planning where the group will walk.

Multi-ethnic group of women wearing pink shirts walking in a park

Choose a Safe Route

  • Choose routes that are well used, well lit, and safe.
  • Avoid busy streets and routes that include busy intersections.
  • Walk on a sidewalk or a path whenever possible.
  • Choose walking routes that have spots for rest breaks.
  • Choose routes that are easily accessible by public transportation and/or provide adequate parking.
  • Check out school tracks or city parks. Many parks have walking or jogging trails away from traffic.
  • Do a test walk of the route before the walking club attempts it.
  • Schedule walks for daylight hours.
  • Choose a route that has enough room for a group to walk together.
  • Watch for bridges and narrow shoulders.
  • Be prepared to walk single file if the road becomes too narrow to accommodate side-by-side walking.
  • If there is inclement weather, walk in an indoor mall or shopping center.

Consider a Walkability Audit

  • A walkability audit is designed to broadly assess pedestrian facilities, destinations and surroundings along and near a walking route (and to also identify specific improvements that would make the route more attractive and useful to pedestrians).
  • You may 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.

Check the Weather

Stay Alert

  • Stay alert at all times. If you’re chatting with fellow walkers, be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid talking on the phone as you walk.
  • If you’re listening to music as you walk, turn down the volume so you can still hear people’s voices, car horns, barking, bike bells and warnings from other walkers and runners coming up behind you.
  • Watch out for uneven sidewalks, holes, rocks, or sticks which are tripping hazards.
  • Be careful walking around large bushes, parked cars, and other barriers that may block your view of traffic or other people.

traffic sign and traffic lights on zebra crossing

Crossing Streets and Roads

  • Cross at crosswalks or intersections. Jaywalking increases your risk of a serious accident.
  • Before you start to cross a street, make sure you have plenty of time to get across. Rushing increases your risk of falling.
  • Pay attention to the traffic signal. Cross only when you have the pedestrian crossing signal and look left, right, and left again before crossing.
  • Never assume a driver sees you crossing the street. Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
  • Be careful when crossing wide roads. Look left, right, and left again before crossing.
  • Road crossing instructions next to a highway

  • Look across ALL lanes of a wide road you must cross and make sure each lane is clear before proceeding. Just because one driver stops, don’t presume drivers in other lanes will stop for you.

Bring Important Items

  • Carry your ID with emergency contact information and bring along a phone and a small amount of cash.
  • Bring water for drinking along your route.
  • Be seen to be safe. Wear brightly colored clothing during the day. (Although walking at night is not recommended for older adult walking clubs, if you find that your walk keeps you out past dusk, wear reflective materials or carry flashlights.)