Walking groups for women with breast cancer: Mobilising therapeutic assemblages of walk, talk and place

Aileen V Ireland, Jennifer Finnegan-John, Gill Hubbard, Karen Scanlon, Richard G Kyle

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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Walking is widely accepted as a safe and effective method of promoting rehabilitation and a return to physical activity after a cancer diagnosis. Little research has considered the therapeutic qualities of landscape in relation to understanding women's recovery from breast cancer, and no study has considered the supportive and therapeutic benefits that walking groups might contribute to their wellbeing. Through a study of a volunteer-led walking group intervention for women living with and beyond breast cancer (Best Foot Forward) we address this gap. A mixed-methods design was used including questionnaires with walkers (n = 35) and walk leaders (n = 13); telephone interviews with walkers (n = 4) and walk leaders (n = 9); and walking interviews conducted outdoors and on the move with walkers (n = 15) and walk leaders (n = 4). Questionnaires were analysed descriptively. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed thematically. Our study found that the combination of walking and talking enabled conversations to roam freely between topics and individuals, encouraging everyday and cancer-related conversation that created a form of 'shoulder-to-shoulder support' that might not occur in sedentary supportive care settings. Walking interviews pointed to three facets of the outdoor landscape - as un/natural, dis/placed and im/mobile - that walkers felt imbued it with therapeutic qualities. 'Shoulder-to-shoulder support' was therefore found to be contingent on the therapeutic assemblage of place, walk and talk. Thus, beyond the physical benefits that walking brings, it is the complex assemblage of walking and talking in combination with the fluid navigation between multiple spaces that mobilises a therapeutic assemblage that promotes wellbeing in people living with and beyond breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date8 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Breast cancer
  • Psychosocial support
  • Walking
  • Volunteers
  • Walking interviews


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