An article by exercise physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge.
Now that local and some interstate travel is back on the table, what better time to get out and explore this beautiful country by foot? Walking is an amazing way to get around, and can actually assist with joint pain through weight loss, strengthening muscles and improving range of motion.
If it’s been a while since you’ve walked for fitness, try not to overdo it. However long you think you can walk for, eg: 20 minutes – halve it, and start with 10 minutes of walking a 2-3 times per week. You can also plan your day according to your symptoms: if it takes you a while to get going, avoid walking first thing in the morning. Joints love to be warm, so a shower or heat pack can assist with blood flow and muscle relaxation.
It’s normal to feel soreness when embarking on something new, but if you feel any sharp or unusual pain, it might be a sign to stop and rest. Always consult your health care professional if you are uncertain. You might also consider the role of braces, compression garments and supportive footwear to “offload” the joints and help you walk further. A health care professional can also assist you with this.
Although it may seem obvious, pack sensibly and for safety, particularly if you are heading into nature. A good hat, removable layers of clothing, sunscreen, water, a light snack and a mobile phone will go a long way in ensuring you’re protected from the elements! Popping your Nageze in your bag will also prepare you for any unexpected inflammation.
We’ve scoured the country’s states and territories for some joint-friendly hiking highlights – including accessible paths, opportunities for breaks, and nothing too steep. Naturally, this list is not exhaustive, but a wonderful glimpse into what is on offer across Australia.
A leisurely walk with views of local rivers, flora and art. Approximately 40 minutes, and great for those with a gardening interest!
Home to the world’s largest colony of penguins, with marked trails taking approximately 1-3 hours depending on your pace.
A short walk with a rich history – take a stroll and learn all about Aboriginal legends and myths. Combine your love of education and exercise!
Spot native birds and wildflowers in their natural habitat, starting off with a stunning mosaic of Menzies Banksia.
An 18km full circuit with plenty of shorter options. Lots of playgrounds, parks, lakes, picnic areas and kiosks along the way. Mostly flat, with stairs and ramp options.
A family friendly 3km path from Smithfield Plains to Stebonheath Park, featuring brightly coloured artwork from students at local primary schools.
2km of flat, accessible pathways with frequent seating options to rest and relax. The wetlands system is abundant with wildlife, including over 150 bird species and the long neck tortoise.
Walk amounts the tall Mountain Ash trees and take in the lush fern trees over flat, supportive ground. There are 4 short walks that all originate from the Visitor Centre.
Multiple paths loop around a central peaceful lake, complete with a conservation area for bird watching, and large grassy slopes which are perfect for play and picnics. Be sure to stop at Madeline’s for coffee and cake!
Easy, sealed walking paths surround a historic manufacturing site, the Maribyrnong River and wetlands. There are three walking options: 2.6km, 4.5km and 6.5km. Plenty of places to stop and watch the birds.
Spectacular cliff top views across Port Phillip Bay await you – there are a few steps and exposed roots to watch for, but overall the track is comprised of sealed surfaces and firm sand. Take a rest break on the gorgeous hand-painted tile seat by artist Tom Roberts.
Mossy rocks and vibrant ferns welcome the cool water of Nelson Falls, found at the end of an easy, flat and short walk from the carpark off Lyell Highway.
Dotted with fungi, this 45-minute forest stroll rewards you with an unforgettable view of the Philosopher Falls.
Coming in a bit longer at 6km, with some short steep sections and stairs, this walk is for the more experienced – but to be in the presence of Cradle Mountain is completely worth it.
New South Wales
A short, paved trail within Barrington Tops National Park with breathtaking scenic views and expansive picnic area.
Coming in at 6.6km, this trail has gentle hills and occasional steps. Listen out for the unique bird calls and soak in the subtropical rainforest. 600-year-old trees provide the perfect shade, and the long trail can be broken up into shorter sections.
3.7kms of rolling trails will take you through rainforest, grasslands, beaches and clifftops, right up to the Cape Byron lighthouse. Note that there are steps and steep stretches of the track, however there is a flat and accessible boardwalk between Captain Cook Lookout and Brooke Drive for those who need it.
Australian Capital Territory
Enjoy unhindered views of Canberra along this sealed trail, featuring two lookouts along the way to take it all in.
Multiple path options make this state forest a complete treasure trove. A freshly upgraded boardwalk ensures that exploring Daisy Hill is a breeze.
Beautiful views of Morans Falls, Castle Crag and Mount Razorback await, whilst the 3.1km journey is lined with colourful lichen and moss.
More lush rainforests here, this time on the stunning Fraser Island. Visit the island’s only lake, and be sure to say hello to the Krefft’s turtles in the water below.
Experience Kakadu’s rich bird and plant diversity over 3.6km of easy walking track, with a boardwalk at Ankurdabbal Billabong for some unique photo opportunities.
Experience the significance of the Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve, formed more than 800 million years ago by salt lakes. It remains of great importance to the Eastern Arrenrnte people and is thought to have been used as an important storage site for ceremonial objects.