Helping Participants Prepare for a Walk

Here are some tips to review with participants.

Dressing for a Walk

  • Wear comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing.
  • Dress in layers, since climate and body temperature both change. Light layers can be removed and tied around the waist or shoulders.
  • Wear loose-fitting layers in warm weather to allow ventilation, and close-fitting layers in cool weather for insulation.
  • Synthetic fibres designed to wick moisture, such as polyester or polypropylene, are better to wear against skin than cotton in cool weather. Cotton absorbs water (such as sweat) and can leave you feeling chilled. Similarly, jeans tend to be uncomfortable in humid or rainy conditions.
  • An outer shell to protect against wind or rain can be handy.

Having appropriate clothing and footwear will greatly improve your participants’ comfort level when walking, and may help to prevent injury. See “Troubleshooting: Overcoming Obstacles” for ways to support participants in obtaining gear.


  • Well-fitting socks will help prevent blisters.
  • Be sure to have a well-fitting, supportive, sturdy, broken-in shoe before heading out on a hike. Shoes should have:
    • A snug fit
    • A well-cushioned heel
    • Good arch support
    • Adequate toe room
    • Flexible, slip-resistant soles
  • Look for soles with a tough outer layer of rubber and a soft mid-sole that runs the full length of the shoe.

Source: Walking Program Walk Leader Handbook (BCRPA)

Sun Safety

In the summer, be sure to discuss the effects of the sun. Here are some tips for summer walks:

  • Cover up—Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat made from breathable fabric.
  • Wear sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., limit your time in the sun. When your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun is very strong. Look for places with lots of shade, like a park with big trees.
  • Check the UV index forecast online, or on local radio or TV stations. When the UV index is 3 or higher, wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Use sunscreen, especially when the UV index is 3 or more.
  • When the weather is very hot, consider canceling your group walk.

Source: Sun Safety Basics (Health Canada, 2012)


The importance of hydration, especially in warm summer conditions, cannot be overstated! Drink plenty of liquids before, during, and after a walk. Here are some guidelines about when and how much to drink:

4 hours or less before exercise Drink about 1–2 cups of fluid (250-500 mL)
2 hours or less before exercise Drink about ½–1½ cups (125–375 mL) of fluid if you have not produced any urine or only a small amount of bright yellow urine
During exercise Keep fluid with you when you exercise. Sip it during your workout. Drink enough to replace water lost through sweat.
Immediately after exercise If you drank enough during your exercise, let your thirst guide you through the rest of the day.

Water is typically the best choice for moderate activity or exercise under an hour in length. Water is also a good choice after a walk, but drinks such as milk, chocolate milk, 100% (unsweetened) fruit juice, and sports drinks can be included, although they provide extra calories.

Avoid carbonated soft drinks, regular (e.g., sweetened) fruit juice, fruit drinks, lemonade, and energy drinks that contain a lot of sugar or caffeine, as they may cause stomach upset and discomfort while walking.

Source: Dietitians of Canada


Encourage participants to have a small, balanced meal before heading out on a walk. Some areas for discussion:

  • Have a small meal 1–3 hours before exercise:
    • A serving of oatmeal with nuts
    • A slice of toast with peanut butter and some fruit
  • Have an easily digested snack 30–90 minutes before exercise:
    • A banana
    • Half a bagel or an English muffin
    • Yogurt
  • Pay attention to what works for you!
    • Encourage participants to try different foods at different times to see what works best for them.

Source: Dietitians of Canada

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