The National Heart Foundation of Australia has welcomed a $1 million grant from the Sport Australia Better Ageing program to develop its new Walk Wise initiative.
Walk Wise aims to boost physical activity among Australians aged 65 and over through walking, either independently or as part of a group.
The funding comes at an important time when sedentary behaviour and isolation are key risk factors in our ageing population. Health-related reasons (including physical and mental health as well as disability or injury) are the main barriers to older Australians participating in sport or physical activities.
Through the building of the Better Ageing grants program, Sport Australia hopes to address these barriers by providing age- and ability-appropriate versions of sports and exercise. These can help overcome health issues associated with inactivity, including cardiovascular and metabolic problems, weight control, and chronic diseases.
The Walk Wise program will be rolled out over two years. It will harness the National Heart Foundation’s extensive knowledge and experience to deliver a program that is tailored to ageing Australians, as well as the professionals who work with them. The three-prong approach to boost physical activity levels in Australians aged 65 and over through walking, will include:
- Advocating for walk-friendly streets and communities;
- Educating older Australians and professionals who work with them about the benefits of physical activity;
- Increasing the reach and scope of Heart Foundation Walking to target older Australians.
The Heart Foundation’s Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, said physical activity can provide amazing health benefits to older Australians.
“Physical activity directly tackles the chronic diseases that are overwhelmingly the biggest issue for ageing Australians: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers and poor mental health,” Adjunct Professor Shilton said.
“If it were a pill, we’d be encouraging every Australian 65 and over to take it daily.
“Research tells us that if the environment is conducive to physical activity, if people are made aware of the benefits, and if you give them a ready-made group activity, there is a much greater chance they’ll get moving.
“That’s why we have designed a three-prong approach for the Walk Wise program, and why we think it will be a great success.”
With 27 successful applicants receiving funding, the Move It AUS Better Ageing Grant program will push $22.9 million into a suite of programs nationally, at a time when inactivity, isolation and loneliness are crucial concerns for the increasingly ageing Australian population.
In addition to the health benefits, engaging in physical activity and group sports for older Australians provides increasingly important opportunities for socialisation, peer-support, and conversation and reduces the possibility for loneliness-related physical and mental illnesses.
Just 27 per cent of Australians over 65 meet the Department of Health physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes activity per day.