If you are one of many Australians who made a New Year’s resolution to keep fit, great news, a new study has found that joining a walking group is one of the best ways to improve overall health with virtually no side-effects.

The study of pooled data which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows walking groups have wide-ranging benefits, above and beyond making people physically active.

National Program Manager for Heart Foundation Walking, Michelle Wilson says the secrets out!  Joining a Heart Foundation Walking Group is the best thing you can do for your heart health in 2015.

“We are encouraged to see expanding evidence to support what we see each day; that walking as part of a group promotes physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

"Walking on a regular basis also has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, while also helping to maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes.

“More than half of the Australian adult population is not active enough to gain health benefits and being inactive is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease – the number one killer of both Australian men and women,” Ms Wilson said.

The researchers said participants experienced statistically significant improvements in a range of measures; systolic and diastolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, BMI, total cholesterol, VO2max, depression and quality of life for physical functioning.

“These results contribute to the increasing pool of evidence that walking in a group is decidedly beneficial for health.  

“The simple act of walking for 30 minutes on all or most days of the week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as half – and gradually walking faster, further or for longer only increases the benefit.

“Heart Foundation Walking groups are perfect for people of all ages and fitness levels,” she said.

Heart Foundation Walking is Australia’s largest free national network of community based walking groups.  The program has been operating for 20 years and currently engages over 20,000 participants.  With 1,400 groups around Australia, there’s probably a Heart Foundation Walking group near you.

To join a walking group or start one of your own in your area, visit heartfoundation.org.au/walking or call 1300 36 27 87 (cost of a local call).

Heart Foundation Walking is funded nationally by the Medibank Community Fund and the ACT Government through ACT Health.

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Media contact: Julia Power, National Media Advisor, 0478 313 656