Walking all the way to fitness and health

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Ray Brett walking his way to fitness and health.
Heart problems and a subsequent stroke meant Ray Brett could no longer work or drive but joining different walking groups all over Melbourne has given him a new lease on life.

Ray Brett, 71, is a fine example of someone walking the talk and talking the walk.

When a heart bypass operation and a stroke meant he could no longer drive, he didn’t sit at home and mope – he put one foot in front of the other and set off in search of walking groups.

He walked to the bus stop, got off at the other end, walked through the centre of Melbourne and met up with a Heart Foundation walking group at the riverside Melbourne Men’s Shed.

Based just behind Federation Square, Melbourne’s Men’s Shed is one of about 1000 men’s sheds in Australia and they provide a range of activities for working and retired men, from digital photography to woodwork and metalwork. There are also opportunities to become involved in volunteer work, social activities – and a walking group.

So, for Ray, that’s every Monday – and a good 10,000 steps - taken care of. And this routine has kept his Mondays occupied for the past four years. 

Tuesday is a walking group organised by his local city council in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Wednesday is usually badminton, which is obviously not walking -  but Ray manages to build in a lot of steps just to get there.

“I walk from my house to a bus stop, then I walk from the bus stop to the badminton hall. When the badminton has finished, I do it in reverse – I walk to the bus stop then I walk back home when I get off.”  

Thursday is the day he joins his local council’s nature walks, which are often beside a river and with bird-watching thrown in, and Friday is a walk with a University of the Third Age (U3A) walking group.

All this walking adds up and Ray easily reached the target in the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps. Not that he’s boasting.

“Many of the members of the Heart Foundation walking group at the Men’s Shed have done millions of steps,” he says.

Before his triple bypass and subsequent stroke, Ray was a car wheel alignment mechanic who enjoyed daily strolls with his dog, Freddy.  

But, six years ago, he’d just returned from a trip to America and one morning he felt “just not quite right”. He went to the doctor who referred him for tests that revealed one of his blood vessels was 80 per cent blocked and that he needed a triple bypass.

That operation was successful but two weeks later he had a stroke that left him with vision problems, speech loss and some movement limitations.

It was a sudden decline in health and a similarly sudden move into retirement.

Long periods of speech therapy followed. “My speech was about 10 per cent-15 per cent and now it’s 80 per cent.”   

Today, Ray has a good and full life. He eats healthier food than before and has dramatically increased his physical activity levels and fitness. He knows walking benefits both his physical and mental health and he is also reassured about his overall heart health by an annual visit to the cardiologist.

“He does all the checks and there’s usually no problem.”

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