How a walking group can help you to get moving

Gary Glazerman

It’s free and it’s available to everyone – whatever your age. We explain how walking groups can be a fun and sociable way to get active.

A walking group can give you the kick-start you need to get active.

Gary Glazerman, 60, is living proof of that. Joining a walking group helped him go from being clinically obese to taking part in a 100km walk to raise money for us. In 2005, Gary took early retirement from a high-pressure job in IT. He weighed 18st 7lb. “I’d let myself go,” he admits. “I was at a bit of a loose end, desperately unfit and very overweight.”

Gary’s wife Liz persuaded him to try walking and, after about eight weeks, he realised he was enjoying it. “I noticed that I was able to walk without getting puffed out and I was starting to lose weight, which was a great incentive,” he says.

Leading by example

When he saw a poster asking for Walking for Health group leaders, Gary was the first to sign up. Six years on, he still leads two walks a week, and typically joins four other group walks. He also does his own walks and likes to challenge himself with longer distances.

Last year, Gary and his daughter Jacqueline walked the 100km London to Brighton Trek in 26 hours, raising £4,500 for the BHF. “Elation and exhaustion finally overtook us both as we crossed the finish line, hand in hand and close to tears,” he says. “When you throw in the non-stop nature of the walk, which went on through the night, it was certainly one of the most mentally and physically challenging fundraising events I have ever been involved in. But the one thing that drove us both on was the sponsorship money riding on our efforts.”

I’m sure all the walking I have been doing has played a part in my recovery

Gary was born with a defective pulmonary valve and several holes in his heart. He’s had open heart surgery three times – twice when he was a child, and the third time in March 2012. “The strides that technology and surgery have taken over the years have just been amazing,” he says.

He now feels fitter than ever, which he says helped him make a swift recovery from his pulmonary valve replacement two years ago: “I surprised my surgeon with a much faster recovery than he’d predicted,” he says. “I’m sure all the walking I have been doing has played a part in that.”

A 100km trek won’t be for everyone, and Gary stresses the importance of little and often. “Never underestimate the short walks,” he says. “When you add them all up, including walking to and from the groups, Liz and I walk a marathon a week!”

Gary has now lost three and a half stone.

Meet new people

Walking for Health provides health walk schemes around England, with the aim of getting people physically active and enjoying the health benefits of walking. The groups often attract people who have retired, although everyone is welcome.

“We encourage all ages and abilities,” says Gary. “Our oldest walker is about 85, our youngest is a three-month-old baby brought along in his mother’s arms.” There’s a social element, too. “We always try to start or finish near a café so we can have a chinwag at the end.”

Gary lives in Harrow, Middlesex, where there are about 12 organised Walking for Health groups. Around 200–300 people walk every week. “Some of the walks are hugely popular,” he says.

“We might get 50 people at a time, so you can always find someone to chat to.”

As long as you can walk, you have a reasonable pair of shoes and you’re prepared for the weather, anyone can take part

Walking will help you achieve the recommended minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity we should all do each week in order to look after our heart health. Whether you’re looking to improve your fitness, meet new people or just fancy some fresh air, why not give it a go?

“You don’t have to be super fit,” says Gary. “As long as you can walk, you have a reasonable pair of shoes and you’re prepared for the weather, anyone can take part.”

Walking for Health group walks are free and you can simply turn up on the day.

“Don’t just think about it; get out there and try a walking group,” says Gary. “Persevere and it soon becomes part of your life. You’ll never look back.”

Find a walking group near you

Read our guide to woodland walking

Walk for the BHF

You can get fit while raising funds for our vital research by taking part in one of our UK hikes and treks. Set in some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside, these include a popular nine-mile hike along Hadrian’s Wall and the non-stop 100km trek from London to Brighton.

Find out how you can challenge yourself physically and mentally with one of our UK hikes

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