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SA Election: Up to $20 million in health savings just a walk away
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SA Election: Up to $20 million in health savings just a walk away

Media Release - 7 December 2021

Getting more South Australians walking could return up to $20 million to the state’s health system in in as little as four years according to the Heart Foundation.

A new analysis by the heart health charity ahead of the 2022 state election shows that a $1.2 million investment by the South Australian Government in its popular walking program could return up to $20 million in health savings, including doctor visits and hospital admissions.

The Heart Foundation has released the figures based on a South Australian Active Lives study to illustrate the health and economic benefits of getting more people walking more often.

The figures are based on doubling the participation rate of walkers in the Heart Foundation Walking program in South Australia over four years and shifting their physical inactivity levels to meet the recommended guidelines.

Allowing for 3,250 additional South Australians walking at least 150 minutes each week, could return $1,630 per walker to the health system annually, or a net $5 million saving each year.

“Walking is a ‘wonder drug’ yet it’s massively underrated because despite the potential health and economic benefits, it’s not being given the investment it deserves,” said Heart Foundation Acting Manager SA Dr Marie Ludlow PhD.

“We are seeking an investment of $1.2 million over four years in the Heart Foundation Walking program to save lives and cut healthcare costs,” she said.

"That’s an annual investment of $300,000 over four years which we estimate could return $5 million in health savings each year, about $20 million in total.”

Dr Ludlow said walking is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions, plus it is free and suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

“Just 30 minutes of brisk walking – enough to make you puff a little, but still be able to conduct a conversation – on five days or more a week, is enough to meet the recommended guideline of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity,” Dr Ludlow said.

“It will also help you reap many benefits; walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by 30 to 40 per cent while brisk walking helps reduce blood pressure and can help manage weight and cholesterol problems.”

Yet, frustratingly, more than four in five (85%) of South Australian adults are missing out on all these benefits because they are either inactive or don’t exercise enough.

Ahead of the 2022 election, the Heart Foundation is also calling on the next South Australian Government to provide funding to boost cardiovascular research in the state and empower South Australian Aboriginal women to improve their heart health.

More information about the Heart Foundation’s policy proposals for the 2022 South Australian election can be found here.

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