Bob busts a million: striding in first place in the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps

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Bob busts a million: striding in first place in the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps.
Meet Bob Ueckert, the first person to reach the magic target in the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps campaign.

He wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps campaign, but that didn’t stop 51-year-old Sydney meter reader Bob Ueckert from claiming the title as the first person to reach the magic target of one million steps in the Heart Foundation Walking initiative.

Given 20 weeks to clock up one million steps, Bob reached the target in just 23 days. But, his achievement gets more extraordinary. Fifteen years ago, Bob lost his ability to walk after suffering a stroke. At the time, he weighed more than 160 kilograms, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and due to his stroke, was paralysed on the entire left side of his body.

“I was so overweight they couldn’t fit me in the MRI after my stroke. They even tried wrapping me up like a mummy to try and get me to fit. It didn’t work.”

Bob underwent rehabilitation to learn to walk again, lost more than 80 kilos, and found a new lease on life.

“I remember not being able to pick up a one kilo weight after my stroke and not being able to move without a walking cane. It took years to build up my strength and fitness, but since I took up walking seriously in 2013, I’ve never looked back. Now, I’m fit as a fiddle.”

Averaging close to 50,000 steps a day, Bob walks more than 20 kilometres on his daily route across Sydney’s eastern suburbs, clocking up additional steps through incidental walking in his spare time.

There are 16 weeks to go in the challenge, with milestones as low as 100,000 steps gaining people entry into prize draws to win vouchers from a host of Australian retailers. Heart Foundation National CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said it’s never too late to join the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps.

“Reaching one million steps as an individual, or 100 walks with a Heart Foundation Walking Group, are certainly not the only goals of the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps,” he said. 

“Meeting milestones for step or group walks from 100,000 individual steps and 10 group walks will gain people entry to prize draws worth up to $2,500. But, perhaps the biggest prize is the one you’ll award to your health.”

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, with evidence showing the benefits of walking also extend to the brain – improving learning and memory skills and reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Kelly said the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps is about supporting the 52 per cent of Australians who are not active enough to improve their health by walking.

“Any level of walking is better than none at all, but more is even better, particularly when it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease,” he said. 

“Whether it means a 10-minute walk today and a longer walk tomorrow, whether it means getting off the bus, tram or train one stop earlier, every bit counts, and people who do the least amount of walking are the ones with the most to gain.”

Join the Prime Minister’s One million steps

To enrol, individual walkers can download the Heart Foundation Walking App, available on iPhone and Android, and register. People without a smartphone can join one of the many Heart Foundation Walking groups around the nation by visiting walking.heartfoundation.org.au, and their Walk Organiser will track their walking group attendance for them.

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