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

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


Aileen V. Ireland

Jennifer Finnegan-John

Gill Hubbard

Karen Scanlon

Richard G. Kyle


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=13); 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.


Ireland, A. V., Finnegan-John, J., Hubbard, G., Scanlon, K., & Kyle, R. G. (2019). Walking groups for women with breast cancer: mobilising therapeutic assemblages of walk, talk and place. Social Science and Medicine, 231, 38-46.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 7, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 8, 2018
Publication Date 2019-06
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 9, 2019
Journal Social Science and Medicine
Print ISSN 0277-9536
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 231
Pages 38-46
Keywords Breast Cancer; Psychosocial support; Walking; Volunteers; Walking Interviews.
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