Walking is a low impact activity that offers many health benefits. It’s good for your heart, joints, muscles and bones. It’s free, requires no training or special equipment, and is generally a safe way to exercise. However, there are safety and environmental issues to consider, especially if you choose to walk in parks or reserves that offer difficult terrain or long trails.
General safety suggestions
General suggestions on reducing the risk of injury while walking include:
- Wear appropriate footwear to reduce the risk of blisters or shin splints.
- Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your walk.
- Wear sunglasses, sunscreen, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat to avoid sunburn.
- Choose a route that is appropriate for your age and fitness level. Warm up and cool down with a slow, gentle pace to ease in and out of your exercise session.
- See your doctor for a medical check-up before embarking on any new fitness program, particularly if you are aged over 40 years, are overweight or haven’t exercised in a long time.
Don't overexert yourself
You don’t have to push yourself to breathlessness to enjoy the health benefits of walking. Instead, walk briskly enough so that you can still carry on a conversation. You will need to increase the intensity of your walks as your cardiovascular fitness improves, by walking faster or choosing hillier terrain. You can give your upper body more of a workout by wearing weights strapped to your hands.
Bushwalking safety suggestions
You may increase your risk of injury (such as shin splints or hypothermia) if you underestimate the demands of a particular bushwalk. Suggestions include:
- Check with Parks Victoria as to which parks and reserves are appropriate for your age and fitness level.
- Generally, about six hours for a bushwalk (including rest breaks) is more than enough for the average person.
- Remember that walking can be hard work on a child’s little legs. Approximately 1km per birthday is a good rule of thumb. For example, a four year old can be expected to walk up to 4km, with plenty of rest breaks.
- Always tell someone of your estimated time of return, so they can raise the alarm if you don’t turn up.
- It is best to have at least three companions while bushwalking.
- Make sure you have maps of the area. Take note of all signage. Stay on the path.
- Check the weather forecast and take appropriate safety measures (for example, pack correct clothing and take sufficient quantities of drink and food).
- Look out for hazards in alpine or coastal areas, such as cliff edges or large waves.
While walking through parks and reserves, make sure you keep environmental damage to a minimum. Suggestions include:
Always use a constructed fireplace where provided, or light the fire in a 30-centimetre-deep trench with at least 3 metres cleared of flammable material around the campfire
- Stick to the paths. Wandering off the paths will damage vegetation, cause erosion and increase your chances of getting lost.
- If you plan to walk your dog in a park, check first to see if they are permitted. Many national and state parks and conservation reserves have dog restrictions.
- Most parks forbid domestic animals, firearms and chainsaws.
- A permit is required to remove rocks or plants from any park.
- Respect all native wildlife.
- Don’t litter. Take all rubbish home with you.
. No fires at all may be lit on days of Total Fire Ban.
Gas or fuel stoves have less environmental impact and are preferred.
Fires are not permitted in some parks. If you would like more information about campfires, contact Parks Victoria on 13 1963, or visit www.dse.vic.gov.au
or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226
Where to get help
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Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.