Sick of your same ol’ walking track? In the mood for a change of scenery? Here’s a suggestion for you: take up bushwalking.
Don’t scoff, we’re being perfectly serious here. The word might conjure up images of blowflies, Explorer socks, insect bites and maybe a rolled ankle, but bushwalking is actually a really great way to stay fit and explore this fine country of ours.
According to Alex Grocott, Health and Fitness Expert at the Solar Springs Retreat in NSW’s Southern Highlands, there are plenty of good reasons to embrace this al fresco form of exercise.
“Bushwalking is fantastic for cardiovascular fitness, as well as muscle toning and strengthening. It can also be more beneficial than regular walking, particularly for core stability and balance, due to uneven ground such as rocks and slopes,” he explains.
Don’t forget to stretch first – try this yogi stretch by Paper Tiger. (Post continues after video.)
Grocott says the experience is also calming for the mind, and research is on his side.
Earlier this year, researchers from Standford University found walking in natural environments was effective in reducing levels of rumination — that is, dwelling on negative emotions and experiences — in 38 mentally healthy city-dwellers.
At this point you’re probably wondering: don’t I have to be an “outdoorsy type” to take up something like this? Or at least really fit? The answer is… nope.
“Bushwalking can be for anyone… you can start small and build up your fitness gradually,” Grocott confirms. If you’re a rookie, you don’t have to tackle a vertical rock face — do some research and see if there are any easier, flatter tracks in your area. (Post continues after gallery.)
You might not require a bushranger beard or a flannelette shirt to be a bushwalker, but there are a few vital items you should wear and carry with you.
“We recommend guests wear closed-in, well-fitted and comfortable shoes and long pants, to avoid sunburn and scratches. First aid and water are also essential things to pack and we recommend grabbing a friend or partner for the walk, which not only makes it safe but also fun,” Grocott says.
If you’re going for a long walk, pack a little picnic (think: fruit, nuts, sandwiches) and stop for a scenic lunch on the way. Just be sure to take your rubbish with you when you go.
Injury is another important consideration — with uneven terrain and obstacles like exposed tree roots comes great opportunity for sprains and falls.
If you have a history of injury, Grocott recommends strapping your knees or ankles; but generally speaking it helps to take your time and avoid walking on uneven surfaces or rocks if they're slippery.
Warming up can also help, he adds: "Gentle arm circles, leg swings or high knees [will] get the blood flowing to the muscles before walks."
If you're not quite convinced yet, we have one more selling point for you: scenery.
Australia boasts some truly beautiful walking spots, and whether you live on the coastline, in a city or kilometres inland, there's very likely a national park or bushland in your area that's ripe for exploring. If nothing else, think of the gorgeous Instagram shots you'll get out of it. Thanks #nature.
Are you a bushwalker? Tell us your favourite tracks.