News & Media

Community activities are a path to better health: Walking groups and GPs.


How many times have you spoken to a patient about “doing a bit more walking” in the last month? Likely more than a few. If you’re concerned about how many will go on to follow your advice, have you thought about encouraging a walking group to run routes from your building?

Linking patients in primary care with existing community led activities or projects is, of course, a tried and tested model, and the Health Secretary’s focus on social prescribing is helping to raise its profile further.

Whereas exercise classes such as yoga and pilates need venues, walking groups don’t – meaning they typically have no cost to join. In addition, walking groups offer a wide range of mental and physical benefits including:

  • Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
  • Stronger bones and improved balance
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Reduced body fat

And it doesn’t stop there. Research carried out by NHS England showed that social prescribing schemes such as walking groups can decrease patient demand for GP and other appointments. With an estimated 20% of your time spent on problems caused by social issues rather than medical ones, being able to connect people with non-medical interventions has a growing role to play in managing your workload.

With the right space, your premises can act as a logical community base for local walking groups to start and finish their regular strolls, or for groups to hold meetings and planning discussions. We’ve been working for a while to explore how our GP surgery buildings can act as a community resource to help more of us get walking.

We’ve created over 80 free wall maps of easy, one-mile walking routes from surgery buildings all over the country.  We supported the charity Active Cheshire to pilot a scheme with our Greenbank Surgery building in Warrington – testing the impact of a weekly community walk near the surgery. And we shout far and wide about primary care buildings such as Frome Medical Centre in Somerset, from which local health walks set off every week.

In getting your patients to take the first step, could your surgery building help to point the way?


Francesca Harris leads our community engagement work