A Sample Introduction Session

Icebreakers and Activities

  • Start with an icebreaker. Participants might introduce themselves and share a favourite place to walk, now or in the past.
  • Invite participants to brainstorm all of the benefits of walking outside. Review ideas they came up with, and circulate the Mood Walks infographic poster and invite discussion.

Information about your Walking Group

Some information to share might include:

  • When and where the group meets, and how participants will get there
  • The format of a typical group (warm-up, 40-minute walk, stretches, snacks)
  • Any requirements in terms of mobility and general fitness level (e.g., participants must be able to use their mobility device independently or provide their own support person)
  • How many participants you expect to attend
  • Volunteers and students who may be involved
  • Whether participants are able to bring family, friends, or other support people such as case managers (for more information, see the “Frequently Asked Questions from Participants” section.)
  • The referral process, if applicable

Health Screening and the PAR-Q

  • Let participants know that being more physically active will provide numerous health benefits. Some people, however, should check with their doctor before increasing their physical activity levels.
  • Hand out the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) and collect the completed questionnaires from participants. The PAR-Q is a one-page form to assess if participants should check with a doctor before becoming more physically active. It is included in the online Appendices and can be printed from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology’s website (www.csep.ca).
  • Let participants know that answering “Yes” to any of the PAR-Q questions means that they will need to be screened by a doctor, either in person on by phone, before joining the walks.
  • If participants do not have family doctors, Community Health Centres offer clinical care from doctors and other health practitioners for people who may face barriers to accessing health care.

The “Are You Ready to Be Physically Active?” Tool

Even if participants are physically ready to be more active, they may not be mentally ready to make a change. Have participants complete the “Are You Ready to Be Active?” questionnaire included in the online Appendices. Here are some ideas for discussing the results:

  • Get a show of hands how many people chose A, B, C, D, and E.
  • Remember where people are at. This tool can also help you as a leader recognize what stage your participants are at and how to provide support, as follows.

Stage How to Support Participant
A Pre-Contemplation:
Not ready to make a change right now.
Encourage continued reflection about the group and the benefits of exercise.
B, C Contemplation and Preparation:
At a good stage to join a new group.
Discuss how to overcome any barriers or challenges.
D, E Action and Maintenance:
Familiar with benefits of physical activity.
May make good peer leaders.
Provide continuing support and encouragement.
Look for leadership opportunities.

See “Using Motivational Interviewing to Engage Participants” for more information about how to support participants.

  • Find out who walks regularly. Find out where people walk for exercise, and where they walk as transportation.
  • As a group, brainstorm two lists:
    • Challenges to Being Physically Active
    • What Helps You Stay Physically Active (Group members who are not active now can think about a time in the past when they were active, or what keeps the active people they know motivated.)
  • Discuss how joining a walking group could help participants overcome the challenges they listed, and how a group could provide some of the support that helps keep people active.

Are You Ready to Join?

Get a show of hands as to who would like to join, who is unsure, and who is not interested. Use the following questions for discussion.

For participants who are “in”:

  • What they are hoping to get out of the group?

For participants who are unsure:

  • How will they make their decision?
  • Are they open to trying the group to see how it goes?

For participants who are not interested:

  • What would need to be different for them to join?
  • How will they keep up their physical activity?

Your aim is for participants to leave your introduction session feeling excited about the possibility of joining the group and making some changes in their lives. Be sure to assure potential participants that it is common to feel intimidated when joining a new group, and these feelings tend to pass—walking can be an easy way to connect with others. Highlight the benefits of participating and share your enthusiasm. Be an inspiration for others to make a change!

Sources: Ecotherapy (Mind for Mental Health); Walk This Way Leader’s Guide (PARC)

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