Walking groups in socioeconomically deprived communities: A qualitative study using photo elicitation.
Health & place 2015 ; 39: 26-33.
PubMed ID : 26922515
PMCID : PMC4889783
Walking groups can benefit health but uptake is more likely amongst those who are socially well-situated and need them least. This study worked with a new walking group in a community in England with poor health and socio-economic indicators to understand non-participation and barriers to involvement. It used a qualitative approach. Participant generated photographs captured the physical and social environments in which they walked and these were used with semi-structured interviews to inductively explore walking group participation and the wider social context of walking. We found that prior to joining there were low expectations of any health benefit and walking groups were not viewed as 'proper' activity. The group format and social expectations presented a barrier to joining. Having joined participants described a developing awareness of the health benefits of walking. The shared sense of achieving health goals with others sustained the group rather than socialising, per se. We suggest that walking group participation is a complex social practice. Promoting walking groups as a social activity for this group of people may well have been counter-productive.