Exercise: To Encourage Walking, Make It Personal

People who want some exercise often need to do little more than get off their, er, couches and go for a walk. Despite numerous studies linking walking to better health, many people cannot seem to bring themselves to do even that.

Now a new study reports that the most successful health initiatives to encourage walking tend to use “targeting and tailoring.” They are aimed at people who are most likely to be responsive, and they are geared to individual goals.

“In other words,” the researchers write in BMJ Online First, “one size may not fit all.”

The researchers found that some of the most effective advice was given individually, as when a doctor counsels a patient to exercise, or was aimed at individual households. Groups formed so people can walk together also help. But broader initiatives, like a schoolwide or companywide effort, tended to work less well.

It helped, the researchers found, if people were reminded to walk, including by phone or e-mail, and if they had pedometers to keep track of their progress.

Walking Program Tips
Use pedometer for motivation and step counting
Remind participants to walk using email or phone.
Dr.'s advice most effective in change

This study was conducted with adults. For pedometer walking program tips with children check out We Count a children's walking program.