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 rates 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 the ageing population. Health related reasons (including physical and mental health as well as disability or poor health or injury) are the main barriers for 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 physical activity. These can help with several health issues that are associated with inactivity, including cardiovascular and metabolic problems, weight control and to combat chronic diseases.
The Walk Wise program will be rolled out over two years in a three-pronged approach:
• 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 could 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.
“If it were a pill, we’d be encouraging every Australian 65 and over to take it daily.”
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.
Only 27 per cent of Australians over 65 meet the Department of Health physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes activity per day.
“We know there’s a number of Australians who can benefit from the Better Ageing program, but can see from research there’s a large number who are missing out due to barriers such as perceptions of ability and understanding what is available to them,” Sport Australia chief executive officer Kate Palmer said.