Walking is the number one physical activity in Canada and is one activity that can help you achieve the health benefits described in the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines .

Toronto Public Health can help you start a community walking group in your agency or workplace. We also provide free workshops for teachers working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students about the benefits of walking.

Toronto Public Health can help you start a community walking group in your agency or workplace by providing:

  • Consultation and information on walking
  • Training to become walking guides
  • A step-by-step guide to help walking guides promote the benefits of walking

People who participate in walking groups are more likely to continue walking regularly. It is also a good way to keep motivated and committed to physical activity.

Things to consider when starting a walking group

It is important to consider the needs and safety of your members before you start a walking group.

Consider the following:

  • What is the size and needs of your group? What are their ages and abilities?
  • How will you encourage people to join the walking group?
  • How often will the group walk?
  • What time of day is your group going to walk?
  • How many walking guides do you need? It is recommended that you have a minimum of two walking guides for each walk; one guide in the front and one guide in the back of the group. If you have a larger group, additional walking guides may be helpful. The number of guides will also depend on the needs of your group.

Other things to consider:

  • Asking walkers to complete the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire: PAR-Q & You or talk to their healthcare provider to determine if they are healthy enough to take part
  • Consider using a release form
  • Have a plan in place in case of an emergency
  • Attend First Aid/CPR training
  • Buy and carry a first aid kit

Designing a route

Walking routes need to be safe and easy for walkers to follow.

  • Choose a safe place to walk – look for routes that have sidewalks, trails and paths
  • Choose routes with interesting things to see – rivers, historical homes or parks
  • Base the length of the walk on the ability of the group members
  • Check if there are any challenges – stairs, hills, narrow paths or uneven surfaces
  • Have a back-up plan to walk indoors during bad weather
  • Provide walkers with an accurate description of the walk
  • Hand out maps of the route using Toronto Maps

We provide free workshops for teachers working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students. In the workshop, teachers will receive a resource which has a variety of fun and educational activities for students on the health benefits of walking.

For further information or to request a consultation on any of Toronto Public Health’s physical activity services, contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.