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Health & Pilgrimage

Cardiovascular Disease Risk

"Walking" pilgrimage such as the Camino de Santiago represents a unique physical activity that millions of people voluntarily participate in each year.  However, little is known regarding the effects of this type of low intensity, high frequency, long duration physical activity on cardiovacular disease risk factors.  Recently, we and others have begun to explore the effects of this type of activity on cardiovacular disease risk among pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago.  In our first study we examined a relatively young and healthy group of subjects completing a 758 km (~500 mile) pilgrimage.  Currently we are working on a study to examine changes in these risk factors among a more diverse group of individuals.  Please contact Prof. M. Brennan Harris if you are interested in learning more about this study.

Health and exercise attitudes among pilgrims

Many modern pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago require a significant physical component as part of the traditional pilgrimage journey and despite the increasing rates of physical inactivity in developed countries the numbers of people completing pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago is rapidly increasing. Therefore, pilgrimage represents a voluntary physical activity of low to moderate intensity, high frequency and long duration in which individuals are voluntarily choosing to participate.  We are interested in determining the general attitudes towards health and exercise among these individuals that might provide clues to increasing exercise compliance/adherence among the general population.

In our first study, we chose to focus on one of the main factors that prevents pilgrims from preventing their journey... pain.  During this type of exercise, many pilgrims experience significant pain as a result of the chronic, repetitive nature of the physical activity which may cause tendonitis, muscle soreness, and blisters.  Several studies have examined the relationship between affect (feelings/emotions) and pain showing that affect and pain  influence exercise adherence.  Understanding these relationships between affect and pain may lead to the development of strategies to diminish negative affect thereby decrease feelings of pain which in turn may result in increased exercise tolerance/compliance.  In the case of pilgrimage, this type of intervention may result in greater success/completion of the pilgrimage.