Walking Groups: A Resurrected Pastime Breaking Its Way Back Into the Mainstream
These days, in our extremely busy lives, it can be hard to tear ourselves away from our screens. There’s always one more email to answer, one more scroll through Facebook. This dependence on technology usually means we end up feeling disconnected from nature and from other people in our lives. In order to fight back against this isolation and tech overwhelm, there’s been a renewed interest in walking groups, which have begun to sprout back up around the UK. Getting back in touch with the great outdoors (and finding some mates to do it with!) has been shown to be beneficial to every age group; whether it’s millennials looking for picturesque scenery to post on Instagram, or women in their 60s just seeking some companionship, walking groups have finally strolled back into the mainstream!
Are walking groups trendy again?
Trend forecasters WGSN correctly predicted last year that hiking would become the biggest new fitness trend of 2019 – and they were definitely right! A UK walking charity called The Ramblers has noted major growth to the more than 50 groups across the country; similar groups like the Glasgow Young Walkers and the Stag Walkers have also all seen significant increases in their membership numbers. There does seem to be a trend of younger generations using walking groups to boost their Instagram profiles, and Pinterest has seen an increase in search terms like ‘hiking equipment’ and ‘walking trails’ over the last year.
The popularity of walking groups is also evident in National Trust magazine, which has the highest circulation in Britain with over four million readers, and their coverage of the trend. In addition, the charity English Heritage has also seen growing interest in walking groups coming to explore the more than 400 historic places (many of natural beauty) that they care for.
What is a walking group?
A walking group is a group of people who come together to complete walks or hikes. They can consist of people from all walks of life and at any age. Some groups have specific goals, such as completing a certain number of miles in a week or using their walks as fundraisers for charities; but the main point is just for people to gather together to enjoy nature and possibly make some new friends. Many people suspect that walking groups are making a comeback partly because people are tired of being so materialistic. There’s been a resurgence recently in people (especially those in the millennial generation) wanting to focus more on experiences and creating memories rather than on buying stuff they don’t need.
Individuals of all ages are also trying to focus more on taking better care of their mental health (as well as their physical health), and walking and hiking can be great activities for this type of self-care. In fact, the journal Scientific Reports noted that people who spent two hours a week or more outdoors reported a greater sense of wellbeing. Forestry England also found studies that show that being around trees improves mood and attention span and enhances stress recovery. A healthier frame of mind and less stress? Who wouldn’t want to sign up for a walking group?
What should I wear on an outing with my walking group?
Walking group apparel doesn’t have to be all about clunky hiking boots and neon outerwear (Even high-end fashion houses like Gucci and Louis Vuitton pre-empted the trend by including walking boots in their recent fashion collections!). Protected Species women’s waterproof jackets emphasise elegance and clean lines while remaining waterproof, windproof and lightweight, making them both stylish and comfortable to wear on any walk. Complete the paired-back sleek look with a pair of Patagonia’s waterproof skinny walking trousers, and these stylish slip-proof barefoot Chelsea boots from Vivobarefoot.
Where can I find a walking group near me?
Wondering how to join a walking group? It’s actually a really easy process. One way to find the closest walking group near you is to log onto Facebook and see if anyone knows of any groups in close proximity to you. There also might be a specific Facebook group dedicated to in-person meet-ups for walking fanatics in your area. There’s also a helpful website called MeetUp.com, where you can search for local walking groups. Organisations like the UK National Trust and English Heritage can also be starting off points to help connect you to a group that’s right for you.
If you don’t find any groups near you, you can always start one yourself. Think through what you want your demographics to be (beginners, parents with children in strollers, seniors, singles, etc.), or if you want your group to be open to all. Then select the frequency of how often you’d like your group to meet and pick a time of the week or day your group can get together for a walk or a hike. You’ll also need to choose a route; do a Google search for popular routes (like a coastal walk) in your area, or check out this great TimeOut book with 52 detailed country walks near London. From there, you can spread the word about your group to friends and family to drum up interest, or share your group’s info on social media to get more attention. Even hanging up paper flyers in your town can help to bring awareness to your group.
Get in on the walking group trend by finding or starting a group near you. You’ll immediately see the benefits: more time spent communing with nature, less screen time, better physical and mental health, and lots of new friends.