Walking towards better health

  • Cleve Heart Foundation Walking group, Allsortza Walkers. Group of elderly woman walking on footpath
    Cleve Heart Foundation Walking group, Allsortza Walkers.
National Heart Foundation of Australia
Elizabeth Calleja,
Tara Henderson
and Jasmine Just

You’ll find the quaint town of Cleve nestled on the Eyre Peninsula, six hours’ drive west of Adelaide. With a population of around 1000, Cleve encompasses the mountainous splendour of the Yeldulknie Conservation Park together with the pristine beaches of nearby Arno Bay. With so much natural beauty to enjoy, residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting outside for some fresh air and physical activity.

Kathy Quinn is the walk organiser of the Heart Foundation Walking group in Cleve. The group, Allsortza Walkers, was established around 12 years ago and comprises mainly women aged 50 years and over.

The Cleve walking group mirrors Heart Foundation Walking at a national level. Around 85 per cent of participants are women, and seven in 10 participants are over the age of 50. With over 1200 Heart Foundation Walking groups across all parts of Australia, most group participants are based in the major cities, while around 40 per cent live in regional and remote areas of Australia, like Cleve.

Walking is truly a type of physical activity that can be done anywhere, anytime, by almost anyone. Everyone of all ages and abilities are welcome to join the Cleve walking group. ‘That’s how the name AllSortza Walkers came about,’ explains Kathy. ‘We’re all sorts!’

The group meets three times a week; Mondays are for a longer three-kilometre walk, while Tuesdays and Fridays are a chance for group members to get their 30 minutes of daily exercise. It’s a great way for the women to get their 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, as recommended by Australian physical activity guidelines.

Staying physically active is important for good heart health, particularly as we get older. It’s important for keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check, and for maintaining a healthy body weight. As Kathy explains, ‘Our bodies weren’t made to sit on a chair. We’re meant to move!’

This is an important message for everyone, especially women as they go through menopause. A drop in oestrogen levels following menopause increases the risk of heart disease; keeping moving and following a heart-healthy eating pattern are especially important for women at this stage of life.

Following the walk, the Allsortza Walkers take part in some strengthening activities, helping the women to meet the recommended two days per week of muscle-strengthening exercises. ‘We do stretching on chairs or a little circuit. We’re all ex-netballers so we do a few little netball drills as well.’

The benefits of walking and moving more aren’t limited to just the physical though. The Heart Foundation Annual Walkers survey has shown over 90 per cent of walkers report that walking has a positive impact on their mental and social wellbeing, as well as their physical health.

Being active also provides an opportunity to make strong social connections and is great for our mental health. As Kathy puts it: ‘There’s a good social aspect. We have a lot of fun!’

To find a Heart Foundation Walking group near you or to sign up for a Personal Walking Plan, visit walking.heartfoundation.org.au

To learn more about women’s heart health, visit the Heart Foundation website heartfoundation.org.au

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