Walking interventions delivered by lay leaders have been shown to be effective. Knowing the characteristics of individuals who volunteer to be group leaders in walking programs could facilitate more efficient and effective recruitment and training.
Walking group leaders were recruited into a community-based program and formed walking groups from existing social networks. Leaders and members completed a survey, participated in physical measurements, and wore an accelerometer. Regression models (adjusting for group clustering and covariates) tested psychosocial and behavioral differences between leaders and members.
The sample included 296 adults (86% women, 66% African American). Leaders (n = 60) were similar to members (n = 236) with respect to most sociodemographic and health characteristics, but were significantly older and more likely to report arthritis and high cholesterol (P-values < .05). Although leaders and members were similar in sedentary behavior and physical activity, leaders reported higher levels of exercise self-regulation, self-efficacy, and social support (P-values < .01). Leaders also reported greater use of outdoor trails (P = .005) and other outdoor recreation areas (P = .003) for physical activity than members.
Although walking group leaders were no more active than members, leaders did display psychosocial characteristics and behaviors consistent with a greater readiness for change.