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COVID-19 pandemic sparks Aussie walking revolution
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COVID-19 pandemic sparks Aussie walking revolution

Media Release – 19 August 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a national walking revolution, with the Heart Foundation today announcing that 100,000 Australians have signed up for its new walking program and releasing data that show participants are reaping huge health benefits.

In a survey of more than 2,300 Personal Walking Plan participants, 92 per cent noticed an improvement in their overall health. Almost all (97 per cent) felt the program was important to their physical wellbeing, 90 per cent to their mental wellbeing and 65 per cent to their social wellbeing.

More than eight in 10 (86 per cent) said their plan had helped them to reach the health goals they’d set for themselves when registering. These included weight loss; better fitness; the ability to do more steps; more motivation; increased energy; and feeling better about themselves.

Before joining the program, only about 20 per cent did the recommended 30 minutes a day of exercise on five or more days a week; by the end of their participation, this proportion had more than doubled to 48 per cent. In terms of muscle-strengthening activities, those doing the recommended two days a week jumped from 26 per cent to 67 per cent.  

Another startling result was among those who had reported doing no physical activity at all before signing up. By the end of their plan, almost a third of this group were meeting guidelines for general activity, and around six in 10 were doing the recommended amount of strength training.

The Heart Foundation launched its Personal Walking Plans earlier this year. In this free, six-week program, participants receive a walking plan tailored to their individual fitness levels, as identified during a quick and easy sign-up process.

Plans are delivered via weekly emails and texts, which are designed not only to support and motivate participants, but also to deliver information about the many benefits of walking beyond fitness and heart health.

Australians have been flocking to the program, with an average of about 700 from across the country signing up for a plan every day. This week, the Heart Foundation recorded its 100,000th participant.

In our survey, a resounding 99 per cent of those who completed their plan said they will continue regular walking or physical activity. Around one in 10 (11 per cent) intend joining a Heart Foundation Walking group.

The plans also boosted participants’ understanding of the benefits of physical activity, with 98 per cent agreeing regular exercise builds strong bones and muscles; improves mental health and wellbeing; and reduces risk of chronic health conditions like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

“We put a lot of work into making these plans engaging, encouraging and fun, so we are delighted by their growing popularity and the terrific health benefits reported in our survey,” said the Heart Foundation’s Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton.

“One reason Australians are embracing the plans so wholeheartedly could be that the pandemic has sparked a renewed interest in walking – not just for physical fitness and heart health, but also for getting out of the house, reducing stress levels, reconnecting with others and exploring their local community.

“This is a step in the right direction for Australia. Despite all our medals at the recent Olympic Games and our international image as a sport-loving nation, the sad fact is that around one in two Australian adults are not active enough for good heart health.

“The Heart Foundation is concerned about this because physical inactivity is a key risk factor for heart disease, which takes 50 Australian lives each day, or one every 30 minutes.

“Walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of not only heart disease, but also stroke, diabetes, dementia and some cancers. It can also help maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
“That’s why we often call walking a ‘wonder drug’. If it were a medicine, we would all be taking it daily for longer, healthier, happier lives.”

To keep the Personal Walking Plan momentum going, the Heart Foundation will continue the program indefinitely, Professor Shilton said.

“We encourage more Australians to sign up. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s good for you – so you’ve got nothing to lose. It might even save your life,” he said.

Go to walking.heartfoundation.org.au to sign up for a Heart Foundation Personal Walking Plan or to find a Heart Foundation Walking group in your area.

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

Media enquiries

Siobhan McMahon, Media Manager
M: 0478 313 656 E: siobhan.mcmahon@heartfoundation.org.au

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