Walking For Wellness

Australian Natural Health

10 July 2015


Multi-day hikes offer the ultimate health punch, as Tatyana Leonov discovers on the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk trail experience.

Along time ago, the famous ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Walking is a man’s best medicine,” and his words still ring true today.

There’s a mountain of scientific research backing up Hippocrates’ declaration and anyone who knows a thing or two about health recognises that walking is good for you. “Brisk walking, like all cardiovascular exercise, strengthens your heart and lungs and can improve or maintain your overall fitness,” says Sydney-based personal trainer Ani Gee of Gee Up Personal Training (geeuppersonaltraining.com. au). “It can help you lose body fat and improve muscular strength and endurance. And it’s low impact – so you can reap all the benefits without the high risk of injury.”

It’s no secret that holidays are good for you too. Getting away from the everyday allows us to escape our daily stresses and rejuvenate. In fact, taking a break from work not only makes us feel better, it can also improve sleep quality (and usually quantity too), reduce blood pressure and aid in long-term stress management.

So why not combine a holiday with walking? It’s the ideal opportunity to recharge both your mind and body. “Exercise while on holidays doesn’t need to be high intensity or at a gym, it just needs to keep you moving. Take advantage of the activities that are on offer where you are,” says Gee.

Enter multi-day holiday hikes. And for those wishing to combine walking with opulence (yep, it can be done), the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk is the bee’s knees of luxury trekking. Recognised as one of Australia’s best multi-day walks, the four- day, three-night journey through Otway National Park traverses cliff tops, luscious sclerophyll forest and stunning rugged coastal terrain. It’s a walk on one level... and deep contemplation on another.

Being at one with nature for a prolonged period of time allows you to reconnect with yourself and focus on mindfulness, and the stops along the way are opportunities to take in the view and focus on breathing. It’s an ideal time to connect with the like-minded people around you, and returning to the stunning eco lodge each afternoon to soak your feet in a spa and lounge around until dinner...well, that’s just bliss.

The Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk is the brainchild of Gavin and Dana Ronan, who launched the company (previously called bothfeet walking tours) in 2005 after they both recognised their love for hiking went beyond the average weekend bush bashers (the couple even spent their honeymoon hiking in Tasmania). With a passion for Australia, wellbeing and trekking, they set out on creating the ultimate walking experience. “It’s not just a walk. It’s about getting our bodies back to what they are designed to do,” Gavin says. “We offer an experience that’s close to nature, with an emphasis on turning off the everyday distractions. Physical activity makes you weary, hungry and sleepy – and over four days your body is getting back to what it needs to do.” 

The hike is split into four segments and covers the last 52-kilometre section at the west end of the trail known as the Great Ocean Walk (Victoria’s renowned long- distance walk that, if walked the whole way, usually takes seven to eight days to complete). “We’ve selected the most scenic parts and use a van to drop guests off at the starting points each day and then pick them up each afternoon to take them back to the lodge,” Gavin says.

Day one is Castle Cove to Johanna Beach, day two is Milanesia Gate to Moonlight Head, day three is Gables to Princetown, and finally, day four is an easier day from Princetown to the iconic Twelve Apostles. The spectacular culmination of a helicopter flight over the Twelve Apostles is a memorable way to end the four-day experience.

Apart from the convenient drop-offs and pick-ups and the luxury of retiring at the plush eco lodge every night, healthy gourmet meals are incorporated into the experience thanks to a live-in chef who works full time preparing delicious and healthy creations (the menu is designed by Dana and renowned chef Ha Nguyen). Guests can choose porridge or eggs for breakfast (different varieties each morning) and also have access to a breakfast bar with home-made mueslis, yoghurts and breads on offer; lunch is always an imaginative salad (think quinoa with smoked salmon slivers, wild rice with chicken pieces and the like); and dinner is an elaborate affair – inventive appetisers by the fire or lounge and tasty mains and desserts. “The meals are designed to complement the trail experience,” Dana says.

Experience is the key word when it comes the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk. It’s not just a walk – it’s the whole package – the trek, accommodation, cuisine and the attentive service. It can only be booked as a package (no trekking without accommodation, no stays at the lodge without the walk) and the maximum number of guests together at any one time is 10. It’s a large enough group that if you want to wander off on your own you are able to, and intimate enough to develop friendships. “It’s a constant delight when people become friends after an intense shared experience,” says Gavin. “And with the Great Walks of Australia collection we helped form, we know that people who meet on one walk often go and travel again on another walk elsewhere.”

Although almost every guest cites finishing the walk as the climax of the experience, it’s not only because they’ve completed the trek, it’s also because for four days and three nights they’ve left their everyday existence behind and found themselves in the Australian bush with new mates and a great view. NH

The Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk experience can be booked from September to May and bookings are open for the 2015/2016 season. For more information go to twelveapostleslodgewalk.com.au or call 1300 767 416. 


Five reasons to get walking

We all know walking can aid weight loss and tone muscles; however, there’s a whole heap of other benefits too. Here are five more reasons to consider a hiking holiday.

Walking can help clear your mind: According to a California State University study, walking releases natural painkilling endorphins – which means ‘clears the head’ in simple English. 

You might live longer: The University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System found that regular exercisers are 35 per cent less likely to pass away in the next eight years when compared with non-walkers. 

Walking can boost creativity: Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was known for his walking meetings. As was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. A recent study by Stanford researchers has found that creative thinking improves while a person is walking. 

Walking can slow mental decline: A University of California study found that those who walked more had a lower age-related memory decline. The study of 6,000 women (aged 65 and over) found that women who walked four kilometres a day had a 17 per cent decline in memory compared to a 25 per cent decline in women who walked less than one kilometre per week. 

Heart health: Walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes (all risk factors for heart disease) as much as running according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study.