According to a Chinese saying, “Take 99 steps after dinner, and live to 99.”
The Heart Foundation’s chief medical adviser, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings, supports this kind of thinking. “Walking improves risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” he says.
Professor Jennings says walking is also good for your brain, helping to stave off the decline in memory, planning and thinking skills that can occur with ageing, and reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “Even cancer rates are lower in people who are physically active,” he says.
In partnership with the Heart Foundation, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched the “One Million Steps” campaign to encourage thousands of Australians to get moving for better health.
The campaign is funded by $10 million from last year’s Federal Budget allocated to the Heart Foundation over four years.
The “One Million Steps” campaign gives participants 20 weeks to walk towards the magic target of a million steps. Reaching this milestone will earn them a certificate and entry to prize draws. An alternative is to complete 100 group walks.
Heart Foundation national CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM, suggests starting slowly and gradually building up over time, to safely increase fitness levels. “It can be as easy as getting off the bus two stops early, parking further away from the office, or changing your usual walking route,” he says.
To join the campaign, download the Heart Foundation Walking App, available on iPhone and Android, and register. People without a smartphone can join a Heart Foundation Walking Group by visiting walking.heartfoundation.org.au, and their Walk Organiser will track their walking group attendance for them.