Kiama Health Plan 2018-2021
New South Wales | Urban
The Heart Foundation is a leading Australian not-for-profit health charity, committed to preventing heart disease and improving the heart health and quality of life of all Australians. One of the ways they do this is through their work in prevention; the Heart Foundation delivers innovative, evidence-based programs to support and prevent heart disease in Australia. With one of the most popular and effective programs being Heart Foundation Walking.
Heart Foundation Walking is Australia’s largest free walking program. Since 1995, the program has engaged over 145,000 Australians to start and stay walking, and there are over 1,300 walking groups nationwide. The walking groups connect individuals - building a community of walkers to support participants to improve their physical and mental health, enhancing their overall quality of life.
Heart Foundation Walking groups are a community led initiative, aimed at improving public health and reducing the prevalence of heart disease among Australians by encouraging people to engage in physical activity with others, in turn also enhancing social connections.
Each group is led by a volunteer Walk Organiser, who is supported by a Local Coordinator and the Heart Foundation. Walking groups can be any size and walk at various times, days, lengths and levels of difficulty, as determined by the groups Walk Organiser(s).
Australia has physical activity and sedentary guidelines that are recommended for good health. Unfortunately, most Australian adults and older adults fall short of meeting the physical activity recommendations.  Data from the 2018-19 national AusPlay survey reported that only a third of Australians aged 55 and over are sufficiently active. 
For most people, irrespective of age, walking is an easy way to start and maintain an active lifestyle. It doesn’t require special skills, instruction or equipment, it is low impact and has a low risk of injury, and it’s free. This emphasises the importance of programs such as Heart Foundation Walking, as they provide older Australians with easy and affordable opportunities to be active and connected to others. These types of programs are key to achieving enhanced population health, liveability and sustainable communities. A recent survey of Heart Foundation walkers found that 37% of respondents were aged between 60-69 years and a further 51% were aged over 70 years, demonstrating the programs suitability and popularity among older adults. 
Heart Foundation Walking is all about community involvement, and the program couldn’t remain accessible and free for everyone without the incredible support of Local Coordinators and volunteer Walk Organisers. Volunteering opportunities are another way older Australians get involved with the program. Such opportunities offer additional health benefits; with research indicating that volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer. 
It is important to note that the continued success of Heart Foundation Walking is dependent on the accessibility of public places and spaces that support Australians of all ages to be active. Walking routes should provide access to shade, shelter, wayfinding signage, drinking water, places to stop and rest and people should feel safe for communities to be conducive of healthy active ageing; regardless if people walk on their own or in a group - if they walk for leisure or walk for transport - if they are on foot, in a wheelchair or walk with the help of a mobility aid, walking and walkability is important.
Where people live and how connected they are to others influences their ability to be active, as well as their physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. The built environment can either facilitate or discourage physical activity and exercising with others can increase motivation and reduce perceived fears such as safety by walking with others. Community programs that are affordable and accessible, such as Heart Foundation Walking, are central to the ongoing sustainability of healthy active communities.