An Introduction to This Manual

Physical activity interventions are becoming increasingly valued as part of holistic, recovery-oriented mental health services. Walking is an effective, low-cost form of exercise that requires little training and equipment. In addition to walking’s numerous physical health benefits, walking groups provide opportunities for social interaction and community exploration, which may be especially important for people who experience mental health issues. Furthermore, an increasing body of evidence supports the value of nature in supporting mental well-being, especially for individuals who experience challenges to their mental health (see “The Importance of Walking Groups in Mental Health Services”).

This manual, produced by Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario, was developed with input from a variety of sources: people who work in mental health services, people involved with hiking clubs and Conservation Authorities, and people who have lived experience of mental illness. Some contributors had co-ordinated successful walking groups themselves, both within the mental health field and otherwise, and their experiences inform this guide.

The manual provides a framework for planning, implementing, and evaluating your Mood Walks group, along with practical strategies and tools that can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs and goals. There is information about how to overcome challenges, spark enthusiasm among participants, and maintain motivation. Our objective is to provide practical information about how to facilitate a Mood Walks group; however, much of this information applies when facilitating other physical activity groups in mental health services as well.

This manual will be developed into a general guide for mental health organizations who want to implement walking groups, so your feedback is important! Please email to provide your comments or suggestions.

We hope this manual is a helpful resource for you, and that Mood Walks is a valuable addition to the services that you provide.

Happy trails!


Minding Our Bodies. (2011). Making the case for integrating physical activity programming into mental health services. Retrieved from

Elizabeth Lines. (2013). The nurture of nature: Natural settings and their mental health benefits. Retrieved from

Sandra Moll, Rebecca Gewurtz and Emma Saltmarche. (2012). Vitamin green: How viewing, being and “doing” in nature affects our health and well-being. Retrieved from

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