Found your feet during lockdown? Aussies are being urged to keep their steps going by joining a local walking group.
In a recent Heart Foundation survey of 300 people, just under a third said they had been walking more since COVID-19 restrictions came into effect. Of those, 45 per cent took walks by themselves, 33 per cent with their partner and 22 per cent with their pets.
"Large numbers of us discovered, or even rediscovered, the joys of walking around the neighbourhood with our family and pets," said the foundation's director of active living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton.
He said when gyms and organised sport shut down due to the pandemic, walking became one of the few options for Australians to stay active. "This time reminded Aussies that walking is free and easy, and almost anyone can do it. You can walk almost any time and anywhere."
Adjunct Professor Shilton said as restrictions continue to ease in some states, it could be time to consider joining a Heart Foundation walking group.
"We paused our walking groups during the pandemic to protect our walkers, volunteers and the community from virus transmission, but many will be able to resume. So now is a great time to join us and keep up the walking habits you developed during lockdown," he said.
He said regular physical activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, can deliver real health benefits. "It not only reduces your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions, but you are likely to feel more energetic, have stronger bones and muscles, and feel happier.
"If you decide to walk in a Heart Foundation walking group, you can also gain great social benefits. Our walkers often tell us they start for the exercise but stay for the company."
There are more than 1200 Heart Foundation Walking groups across the country, with many of them now resuming activities.
Adjunct Professor Shelton reminded people, however, that not every group will be back up and running. "It depends on factors such the size of a group, and whether the walk organiser and group members feel comfortable about resuming."
Anyone participating in the Heart Foundation Walking program will be required to:
- Continue social distancing on organised walks (keeping a 1.5-metre distance from others);
- Stay home if unwell (for example, if they have a fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat);
- Seek testing for any COVID-19 symptoms and report a positive test result to the Heart Foundation Walking team as soon as possible; and
- Practise good hand hygiene, and cover coughs and sneezes.
The Heart Foundation also encourages walkers to download the COVIDSAFE app and use it at all times; get a flu shot; bring their own hand sanitiser; and talk to their doctor about whether joining or rejoining a walking group is advisable for them at this stage. This particularly applies to people considered more vulnerable to the virus, such as older Australians and those with chronic health conditions.
To locate a group in your area, visit the Heart Foundation Walking website, click the "Find a Group Near You" button, and enter your postcode.
Men lead the way
Meanwhile, a walking initiative for men has won the 2020 Men's Health Award for NSW.
The Man Walk was also a shortlisted for the Best Men's Group or Program in the national awards organised by the Australian Men's Health Forum
What began as a small walking group in Kiama in 2018 has become a national phenomenon, rapidly expanding from one group to around 70 sites across Australia in the past 12 months.
The Man Walk provides an opportunity for men to get together to walk, talk and support each other in a regular and healthy way. It operates in an environment that is positive, supportive and inclusive, where there is no pressure and no barriers to entry.
"We want to make it OK to talk, and we want to make it OK for men to ask for help if they need it," the founders say.