A daily, brisk 30-minute walk boosts brain power, helps control weight, and improves your overall health. And if you commit to doing it with friends, you're more likely to stick with it.
Step 1: Partner up Start recruiting. Ask friends, colleagues, and neighbors if they'd like to form a walking group, and drum up interest by posting fliers in your library, retirement community, health club, or place of worship. Consider calling your senior or community center, YMCA or YWCA, or local health department to see if you can partner with them to create a walking group, or merge yours with an existing one.
Step 2: Hold a meeting Host a kickoff meeting in your home or at a public place, like a neighborhood park or coffee shop. If you're partnering with a community center, ask if you can hold it there.
Step 3: Work out guidelines Decide when, where, how long, and how often you'll walk together. Work out some guidelines, like whether or not you'll walk when it's raining, and whether members need to notify the group if they can't make it. Exchange contact information and agree on a starting date.
: Remind group members that if they are at risk for heart disease, stroke, or other chronic conditions, they should consult their doctor before beginning any kind of exercise routine. Go to CreateTheGood.org to answer six simple questions on exercise and safety.
Step 4: Set goals Set group goals, such as increasing the amount of time you walk each week, or incorporating more difficult terrain, like hills. Sign everyone up for an online program like AARP's free "Get Fit on Route 66," which lets you take a virtual trip across America as you keep track of the miles you've walked.
Step 5: Encourage individual goals Encourage members to set individual goals, like eating a healthier diet. Investing in a step counter can help them track their progress and stay motivated.
TIP: Download goal-setting charts, scavenger hunt ideas, and other walking-group resources at CreateTheGood.org.
Step 6: Mix it up Keep the group interesting by joining charity walk-a-thons or 5K races, organizing an all-day or weekend hike, or spinning off a dinner or book club.
Step 7: Keep members motivated Help each other stay motivated by inviting local speakers to talk about fitness and healthy eating. Contact your local health department, university, or sports medicine clinic for suggested speakers.
TIP: Find an ACE-certified personal trainer to speak to your group by going to CreateTheGood.org.
Step 8: Reward success! Recognize group members who have lost weight or improved their health thanks to the walking group.
FACT: Tennis champ Martina Navratilova, AARP's Health and Fitness Ambassador, says, "having a support system increases your motivation so that you try harder and get in shape faster."