Aussies could walk their way to healthier hearts

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Nine in 10 Australians could reduce their risk of heart disease simply by walking as little as 15 minutes more each day, the Heart Foundation said following a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Nine in 10 Australians could reduce their risk of heart disease simply by walking as little as 15 minutes more each day, the Heart Foundation said following a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Impact of physical inactivity as a risk factor for chronic conditions: Australian Burden of Disease Study , looks at the health impact – or 'burden' – of a lack of physical activity in terms of years of healthy life lost through living with an illness or injury, or through dying prematurely.

Being inactive has a strong link with heart disease. One-third of the total burden due to physical inactivity in Australia was caused by heart disease.

This figure demonstrates the significance of being active and having healthy heart.

It estimated that if the 89 per cent of Australians who fall in the ‘at risk’ (sedentary, low and moderate activity) category did an extra 15 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking five days per week, 13 per cent of the potential disease burden due to physical inactivity could be avoided.

And by adding 30 minutes of walking or other moderate activity, five days per week, 26 per cent of future disease burden could be avoided, the report stated.

Heart Foundation National CEO Adjunct John Kelly said many people underestimate the impact of physical inactivity on themselves, on their families, and on the health system.

“Walking is hugely underrated as a powerful prescription for good health and this latest research shows how beneficial it can be in lowering your risk of heart disease,” he said.

“This can be as simple as taking a walk during your lunch break, getting off the bus or train a few stops earlier, or parking a few blocks away and walking the kids to school.”

Professor Kelly said while the report showed an expected small increase in the number of active adults in the coming years, this unfortunately did not include those aged over 60.

“We know it can be difficult to start new habits, or even maintain exercise routines, but that’s where programs such as Heart Foundation Walking can be great. Not only will participants’ physical health benefit from more walking, but they often feel happier, make more friends and feel more connected to their community,” Professor Kelly said.

In May, the Federal Government announced that $10 million in funding over two years would be allocated to the Heart Foundation for an initiative to support up to 150,000 Australians to adopt the easy way to better health – regular walking – by 2019.

“We are working very closely with the Federal Government on how to further engage the nation in becoming more active in the new year.”

Media enquiries: Liselotte Geary, Senior National Media Adviser, Heart Foundation, 0411 310 997 or liselotte.geary@heartfoundation.org.au

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