Previous studies have demonstrated the positive health benefits that result from walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route across northern Spain. However the extent of these benefits have not been clearly established.
PURPOSE: To determine the general health and fitness gains of high volume, low intensity exercise, that is el Camino.
METHODS: There were two distinct sample groups, one at Pamplona a common starting pointing (17 male, 14 female) and the other in the city of Santiago (30 male, 12 female), the end point for el Camino. We conducted five tests with each sample group: Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, skin-fold body composition, leg strength, 3-min step test.
RESULTS: A decrease was observed in all in all tests conducted. With statistical significance in males post leg-strength (37.2kg +/- 2.62 vs. 29.5kg +/-1.75 P<0.05 pre vs post), and the post combined sample as well as the men specifically in the 3-minute step test (92.9 bpm +/- 3.72 vs 76.0 bpm +/- 3.05P<0.05 pre vs post).
CONCLUSIONS: The decrease in leg-strength demonstrates an unexpected difference resulting from “walking pilgrimage”. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings and determine an underlying cause. The results of this study suggest a trend towards improved cardiovascular fitness including decreased resting HR, MAP, and body composition, however, these differences were not statistically significant. This may be due to the small sample size collected for this diverse population or due to the low levels of intensity experienced during this type of exercise. As a result this pilot study points to several novel changes in fitness during low to moderate intensity, high frequency and high duration physical activity that should be investigated.