A plan to get 200,000 Aussies walking is on the Heart Foundation’s Federal Budget wishlist, as it warns more must be done to tackle a ticking time bomb for heart disease – physical inactivity.
Federal funding for Heart Foundation Walking, Australia’s largest free walking network with about 1300 walking groups across the country, is due to run out in June.
In its pre-Budget pitch to Treasury, the leading heart health charity calls for a national walking strategy to keep its successful walking program striding ahead and building on numbers.
Lack of exercise is a leading risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions, yet a staggering 85% of adults are not meeting physical activity guidelines.
To turn this around, the Heart Foundation wants funding to extend its program by a further three years with the aim of doubling the number of walkers to 200,000. More than 80,000 walkers are already signed on.
A survey of Heart Foundation Walking participants shows most (92%) are clocking up the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week – a level that can reduce heart disease risk by as much as 35%.
Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, says a national focus on getting more Australians walking is the solution to improving our poor physical activity scorecard.
“Physical inactivity is a major driver of chronic disease and contributes to the obesity epidemic, with two-thirds of Australian adults now overweight or obese,” Professor Kelly said.
“The good news is walking is free, easy, and one of the best choices to reduce your risk of heart disease and related risk factors, while improving mental health and providing social connection.
“The Heart Foundation has invested in walking programs for many years, recognising that walking is a step Australians of all ages and fitness levels can take towards protecting their hearts.
“We urge the Federal Government to step up measures to get Australians moving, with a walking initiative that will help prevent heart disease and provide many other benefits along the way.”
Under the proposed plan, the Foundation would also deliver public education campaigns to raise awareness of the health benefits of walking and work with local communities to advocate for safer and more walking-friendly streets.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, it’s more important than ever that Australians are able to get out and walk safely and easily in their local areas,” Professor Kelly said.
“Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal. We need programs, education and infrastructure that will support people to be more active and make communities more walkable.”
The Federal Budget is due to be handed down in May.
Walk this way
- 92% of Heart Foundation Walking participants achieve the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week.
- 98% of walkers say the program is important to their physical wellbeing.
- 93% say it’s important to their mental wellbeing.
- 93% say the program increases their daily walking.