Heart Foundation Walking – Combining Social Activity with Physical Activity

 Heart Foundation Walking – Combining Social Activity with Physical Activity

It is well documented that exercising for 150 minutes per week is linked to significant reduced risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, as well as reduced risk of cognitive impairment. It is also proven to enhance psychological wellbeing by improving mood, reducing depression and anxiety, and it can reduce social isolation through enhancing social connections. Physical activity has even been recognised as having a role in the treatment for anxiety and depression. The many positive benefits are suggested to be a due to a combination of participation in physical activity itself and from the sociocultural aspects that can accompany physical activity – if done alongside others, like walking in a walking group.    

For most people, walking is an easy way to start and maintain an active lifestyle. It doesn’t require special skills, instruction or equipment; it’s free; has a low risk of injury; and it can be done practically anywhere, with others (or solo). And there is good news for those starting out – research shows every bit of walking counts.

Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, Director of Active Living at the Heart Foundation, encourages all Australians to be more active by walking more often, and strive to meet the daily guidelines for physical activity. Professor Shilton stresses that any activity is better than nothing and it’s never too late to start! “Being active can-do wonders for your physical and mental health. If the benefits from being active were encapsulated in a pill, it would readily be prescribed and taken daily by many,” Professor Shilton says.

“Walking offers a range of mental health benefits too – and the rewards are increased when it is done with others or in nature,” Professor Shilton adds. “Walking outdoors increases interactions with nature, and can afford social connections with others, which are fabulous stressbusters.  Group walking provides a wonderful avenue for social support and the development of friendships and freedom from social isolation. If done regularly, walking can deliver life-long enduring benefits for individuals and communities.”

Professor Shilton notes the importance of programs like Heart Foundation Walking (HFW), stating “they encourage community participation in physical activity, which also leads to enhanced interactions with others. Combining social activities with physical activity often results in more frequent and sustained participation.”

This is common feedback from HFW participants, who frequently state they joined the program to improve physical health but stay because of the friendships they have made. Walking groups are a sociable activity, capable of connecting communities and reducing social isolation, which is so important when we look at the relationship between physical and mental health.

About Heart Foundation Walking

Since 1995, over 145,000 Australians have walked with Heart Foundation Walking. We are Australia’s largest free walking program, with nearly 1,300 groups nationwide, ranging in size, meeting times and duration to suit a range of needs and abilities. Many of our walkers join to become more active, but the program is about more than just the physical benefits – walking in a group helps our walkers build connections within their community; maintain good mental health; manage stress; feel happier and improve their quality of life!


Heart Foundation Walking is supported by the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and SportAUS.

www.walking.heartfoundation.org.au

Heart Foundation Helpline 13 11 12

The Heart Foundation have developed new resources to support older Australians to stay fit and active, whilst helping to enhance understanding of the benefits of regular physical activity.

The delivery of these new resources has been made possible thanks to Heart Foundation Walking and the Walk Wise project – a *2-year funded project by Sport Australia under the “Move It AUS – Better Ageing grants.  Feel free to download, share and use at these at your discretion. 

HFW Stretches Poster

HFW Strength Poster

About Heart Foundation Walking

Since 1995, over 145,000 Australians have  walked with Heart Foundation Walking. We are  Australia’s largest free walking program, with nearly 1,300 groups nationwide, ranging in size, meeting times and duration to suit a range of needs and abilities. Many of our walkers join to become more active, but the program is about more than just the physical benefits – walking in a group helps our walkers build connections within their community; maintain good mental health; manage stress; feel happier and improve their quality of life!

Heart Foundation Walking is supported by the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and SportAUS.