23 May 2023

Men sharing a simple walk and talk is helping to save lives

| Graeme Burrill
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The Man Walk

Men from all over Australia have joined The Man Walk. Photo: Supplied.

‘Walk, Talk and Support’. It’s the motto of The Man Walk, started four years ago by Kiama physiotherapist Mark Burns when he decided to make a change to his daily routine and habits by getting up early and having a walk.

“I’d get a coffee, walk around Kiama Harbour, listen to a podcast and it was a really good way for me to get into better habits and routines and start the day well,” he said.

“As men, we don’t do this together as often as women do, it’s important that we catch up with each other. We’re just not as good at it, we’re not as good at meeting, speaking face-to-face and eye-to-eye.

“So, The Man Walk inadvertently has struck this chord with blokes, it’s the side-by-side nature of it. It’s movement and walking and talking.”

Men from all walks of life come together who normally wouldn’t and new friendships have grown.

Mark began walking on his own but then a few mates joined him. It went from one to 10 very quickly.

“It’s a simple concept. Because blokes are simple, we need to keep it really easy for blokes and we just found the power in that regular commitment to each other to walk and talk and support,” Mark said.

“We’re not solving the problems of the world by any means. But just the regularity in the conversation is great power in that.”

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From that initial group and a Facebook page, it grew to an additional walk in Wollongong and with news about The Man Walk spreading, a new group began at Coolangatta/Tweed Heads. But it wasn’t until one of their social media posts went viral that the greater population began to hear about what was happening.

“We’ve been inundated since with requests for new walks and how do I find and start a walk,” Mark said.

“I think then the ease and the lack of barriers for blokes to join or start new walks has just seen us grow.”

There are now 82 walks across the country.

“Our walk leaders are called our Manbassadors. When someone reaches out, we’ve got a process that we go through about what is The Man Walk, what are the requirements of a Manbassador, and that includes that a walk should be less than an hour, ideally flat/even surfaces, and some rest points if blokes aren’t as active,” Mark said.

“Morning is best and we’re quite strong that an ideal ‘Man Walk’ is a good way to start the day and it doesn’t interfere with family time.”

From small beginnings, The Man Walk is now supporting blokes even before they join a walk.

One new member, who shared about his broken marriage, being lonely and in need of some friends, said this had been the best thing that had happened to him in the past 12 months, knowing that he was able to meet some people and talk.

Mark said another Man Walk member with a young family in Queensland had a degenerative eye disorder and was going blind, which was affecting his mental health.

“By being a part of a Man Walk, the other members were able to come around and support him,” Mark said.

“They’ve helped, even going [to help] him at home with some things around the yard because he’s made friends and he wrote to me and said, ‘This is just the most amazing thing. I haven’t had friends for a long time because I can’t get out,’ and he said it’s changed his life.”

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Mark says examples like these make him proud of what The Man Walk has been able to achieve.

“To see men come together in a really simple way and have a walk and talk but then the friendships and the camaraderie that comes from that – it’s really powerful.”

Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to join or start a group with further details on how to do so via their website.

“Loneliness and social isolation are huge aspects in society around the world, particularly in Australia,” Mark said.

“And if we can go a long way to offsetting that by providing a place where blokes can get together and communicate and find camaraderie, there’s huge power in that.

“It’s a huge risk factor for early mortality – the recent stats show that loneliness and social isolation are as big a risk factors for death as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, all these kinds of things so we can get out and walk and talk and communicate as well as the exercise, we really are saving lives.”

For more details, visit The Man Walk or Facebook.

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