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Walking sports, a trending phenomenon in Bristol, UK

Throughout the month of May, the Bristol Walk Fest is taking place in Bristol, United Kingdom. The festival is a celebration of walking. The walks are categorized into different themes:

  • Art and creative walks
  • Health and wellbeing walks
  • Nature and wildlife walks
  • Green and clean walks
  • History and architecture
  • Walking sport

In addition, the walks are graded to these levels:

  • Easy – mainly flat on paved surfaces without features such as steps; gentle pace.
  • Fairly easy – mainly flat on paved surfaces with features such as steps, gentle pace.
  • Moderate – more challenging slopes and the ground may be varied, may include steps and stiles; moderate pace.
  • Challenging – suitable for experienced walkers able to walk long distances over mixed terrain and gradients. Likely to include stiles; brisk pace.
Picture from: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/huge-walking-festival-happening-bristol-2848245

Walking sports include Nordic walking, walking cricket, walking tennis, walking hockey, walking rugby, walking football, walking netball, walking Boccia, New Age Kurling and walking multi-sport. Bristol Walk Fest co-ordinator Kerry Morgan explained: “One of the joys of this year’s Walk Fest programme is the number of opportunities it gives for sports fans of all ages and fitness levels to try a walking sport. There’s a myth that these slower versions of popular sports are strictly for older people. While it’s true that they are a great way for ageing players to maintain their interest in a game, stay active and enjoy team camaraderie, they are also a way for lapsed and injured players of all ages to get back into their favourite sport.”

Walking sport is non-competitive and can be enjoyed by people of all standards and ages. Kerry continued: “The walking part is a physical leveller, and allows different abilities to play together, and grandparents, and parents with their children, competing together or against each other. Also, the fact its slower can also allow regular players to hone and practice their technique. So there really is not limits to it.”

Nordic walking and various walking tours and clubs are available in Canada; however, walking sports are still a rarity. Are you aware of walking sports happening in your area? Let us know at feedback@jointhealth.org.

The power of walking

Walking is beneficial in different aspects of your life.

According to researchers at Standford University, walking boosts creative inspiration. They compared the creativity levels of participants that were walking and those that were sitting. Researchers found that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 per cent when walking.

The research study comprised of four experiments and 176 participants. Participants were placed into different scenarios:

  1. Walking indoors on a treadmill or sitting indoors (both facing a blank wall)
  2. Walking outdoors or sitting outdoors while being pushed in a wheelchair – both along a pre-determined path on the Stanford campus.

Participants participated in different combinations, such as two consecutive seated sessions, or a walking session followed by a seated session. These sessions were also compared in the study. Researchers conclude that participants performed better on creative divergent thinking tests during and immediately after going for a walk. Divergent thinking is a “thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.”

The infographic below outlines how walking can also benefit your brain, heart, and bones, as well as your memory, mood, health, longevity, and weight.

High-intensity interval walk training associated with decreased disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis

A recent study has shown exciting new benefits associated with exercise for people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

image of someone on a treadmill

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease with hallmark symptoms of inflammation and resulting pain. It is a disease process (like cancer or diabetes) where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy joints. It is a relatively common disease – approximately 300,000 or 1 in 100 Canadians get it – and is often devastating to a person’s body if not treated properly.

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina found that 10 weeks of high-intensity interval walk training was associated with decreased disease activity and improved immune function for adults with RA. High-intensity interval walk training refers to a popular form of exercise that includes short bursts of fast-paced walking at maximum effort followed by less intense recovery periods.

The study included twelve physically inactive adults over the age of 55, with a confirmed diagnosis of RA. Participants completed a 10-week program consisting of 3x 30-minute sessions a week of supervised treadmill walking. This Included a 5-minute warm up and 5-minute cool down. Within the training session, participants walked at 80-90% of their maximum effort in intervals of 60 to 90 seconds. These high-intensity intervals were followed by recovery intervals at 50-60% maximum effort. Speed and interval times varied for each person based on a cardiorespitory fitness test, but none exceeded walking pace. 

Disease activity was assessed by a rheumatologist through a count of swollen and tender joints, perceived general health and blood tests to measure inflammation. Cardiovascular fitness and immune functions were assessed using a variety of clinical and laboratory tests, as well as standardized questionnaires. At the end of the 10 weeks, the following outcomes were observed:

  • RA disease activity reduced by 38%, with a significant decrease in swollen joints, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and improved self-perceived health. An ESR blood test measures the rate at which red blood cells settle in the period of one hour, revealing inflammatory activity in the body. 
  • Improved immune functions suggesting a reduced infection risk and inflammatory potential 
  • Cardiorespitory fitness increased by 9%
  • Resting blood pressure and heart rate both reduced 

 There is a substantial amount of research on exercise and rheumatoid arthritis, but few studies have reported the actual lowering of disease activity scores. As stated by the researchers, this study suggests that,

“High intensity interval walking could be an efficient, tolerable, and highly effective intervention to augment disease activity and improve overall health in patients with RA.”

There are certain limitations to the study such as the small sample size and no control group, but the findings will hopefully encourage more research in the area. In addition, these findings add to a growing body of research on the benefits of exercise for people with arthritis. To learn more about the study, click here.


To learn more about physical activity and arthritis visit the following pages: