Research proves it: Exercising with a buddy can help you stick with a walking program but sometimes it isn’t easy finding someone who can work with your schedule. Need to find a walking buddy? Here’s how to make the first move.

The Web is a great resource. The American Volkssport Association connects people with similar interests and abilities – usually for free. Once signed up, members can set up walking dates, chat about progress and discuss walking-related topics, such as buying shoes or dealing with shin splints.

Looking for a walking group? Check to see if your mall has a mall-walking program. These programs, which usually run year-round, provide the safety of a buddy system with the benefits of community.

“There are quite a few mall-walking programs. Many open their doors early so walkers can exercise without getting slowed down by shoppers,” explains Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, in New York. “Mall walking gets you involved with a group, but it is also more user-friendly to walk indoors sometimes, especially when it’s too hot or cold outside.”

“People take walking groups very seriously and use them as motivational tools,” says Lisa Hulme, SportsBrain’s operations director. “Using the buddy system is a great way to meet new people and stay with a walking program.”

One great way to find an instant walking group is the Arthritis Foundation's Walk With Ease program. You can join a group and walk together over the course of a six-week class, or you can go it alone if that's more your style. Either way, the program is proven to reduce arthritis pain and improve your overall health.