• Hiking in our 60s. Guduru Ajay bhargav/Pexels
    Hiking in our 60s. Guduru Ajay bhargav/Pexels

Bushwalking is something you can do at any age and all that may change as you get older is choosing your walking tracks more wisely.

It's great for your bones, your brain and your social life but how do you do it as you head into your twilight years?

A while back Great Walks spoke to a group of bushwalkers around 70 years of age to see what was the secret to their long term hiking success.

Lorraine Thomas
How long have you been bushwalking for?
Twelve years since retiring. I hadn’t thought about it during my working life and thought pack walking was for the elite sportsperson. I was never very sporty. I love walking for fitness and was looking for places to walk other than the beach, where I live, so I joined a bushwalking club and was truly amazed at the 80-year-olds in the group doing A-grade walking and secondly, the scope of terrain and biodiversity so close to home. This inspired me to achieve a level of fitness to be able to enjoy these places and more.

What type of bushwalking do you prefer?
My preference is extended multi-day walks in wilderness areas simply because you can get right away from urban noise and just listen and observe nature at its best in good weather and bad. Rarely seeing other hikers, it is so relaxing despite the effort to get out there and so humbling to be able to witness such vast and complex areas that others rarely see.

How do you keep your body fit and strong for bushwalks?
I walk 17-20km 2-3 days a week and attend a gym twice a week to maintain a balanced fitness level. I try to do a weekend pack walk once a month to keep “pack fit” for the longer trails and sometimes this may involve extra pack training. Incidentally my bone mineral density (BMD) has increased since pack walking.

As you've got older what have you found hardest to deal with in the bush?
Injury is the hardest thing to deal with because as we age we take so much longer to heal. To avoid any potential injury I have the incentive to maintain this high level of all round fitness with the added benefit of enjoying the walk without stress.

What's your advice to younger bushwalkers?
Look after your feet and buy quality footwear. Secondly, read about bushwalking and equipment, it’s all about preparation and planning to avoid long term stress on your body.

Jeff Mayes
How long have you been bushwalking for?
Five years

What type of bushwalking do you prefer?
Our club has base camps (probably what you call multi-dayers) where we stay in basic accommodation for multi nights and do day walks. They are my preference for several reasons:
They are value for money and better for the environment because we carpool to get there. I am a solo walker and enjoy the walking company of like minded people, we enjoy each other’s company in the evening, sharing meals we take turns in cooking.

How do you keep your body fit and strong for bushwalks?
Cycling, daily walking, healthy diet and 15 minutes of exercises at home at the start of the day.

Has the type of bushwalking you do changed over time?
In the short time I’ve been bushwalking I have changed from doing day walks on the weekend where we drive to the bush outside of Melbourne, to walks during the week where we use public transport for walking closer to and within the metropolitan area, where bush areas are surprisingly common. I am committed to public transport for its environmental benefits.

Susan Curtis
How long have you been bushwalking for?
21 years.

What type of bushwalking do you prefer?
I enjoy all types of walks. I started with day walks, then spent my annual leave walking on cabin/camp based multi-dayers. Since retirement I have branched out and really love the overnight pack walks. I feel I still have a few of these overnighters in me and will endeavour to add these to my bucket list.

How do you keep your body fit and strong for bushwalks?
I just keep walking regularly. I also play golf twice a week and try to keep up with the grandchildren. I also have a program of exercises and stretches.

As you've got older what have you found hardest to deal with in the bush?
The hills/mountains seem to get higher and harder, but this only brings me back to keeping up with my fitness.

What's your advice to younger bushwalkers?
If you have been introduced to the versatility and experiences of bushwalking at a younger age you are likely to keep it up. I have taken my grandchildren on local short walks and have been camping with them. They love it and I participate with and encourage them all the way. Bushwalking and camping gear make great gifts.

Diane Segall
How long have you been bushwalking for?
About 35 years.

What type of bushwalking do you prefer?
My preference has changed over the years. My walking history started with day walks with a friend. After we exhausted all the well marked trails we could navigate safely on our own, we joined a private walking group. The group extended our horizons and love of walking to base camps with accommodation, to camping base camps. Then I joined the Bayside Bushwalking Club where I launched into overnight backpacking. This included the usual wonderful trips in Tassie, Walls of Jerusalem, Overland Track, Pine Valley, the Labyrinth, Frenchman's Cap and beyond.

These trips were made possible because of the wonderful leaders in the BBC who were happy to encourage many women to test and extend their capability. Then I discovered NZ, (what a walking wonderland that is!) then my horizons were extended by walking in Europe. The first, and possibly the most rewarding, was the Way of St James from Le Puy to the Pyrenees across France. This Pilgrimage had so much to offer. Apart from the joy of long distance walking, there was the fertile French countryside, the World Heritage villages, the magnificent regional French food, wonderful, characterful accommodation and excellent company.

How do you keep fit?
I play competition golf and tennis at least once a week each, walk 10km once a week and attend a seniors exercise class once, sometimes twice a week.

As you've got older what have you found hardest to do?
In recent years I have stopped carrying the heavy overnight pack and camping out but I still love the idea of it. The experience of carrying the heavier pack means that I can cope with any day walk, longer or harder regardless of the terrain but prefer to walk on track.

What’s your advice for younger bushwalkers?

  • Walk with a club where you are likely to meet like-minded people who become good friends.,
  • Use walking poles to lessen stress on knees and hips
  • Keep as flexible as possibly by doing appropriate exercises either at home or in a class
  • Keep fit enough to keep up with the group so you don't stress your body
  • Do exercises to strengthen you back, if necessary.
  • Enjoy the environment in which you walk, be interested in flowers, birds and the magnificent scenery we are fortunate enough to have so close at hand in Victoria.
  • Get the best and lightest gear you can afford to preserve your joints and keep you warm and dry.
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