WOMEN who want to walk more would feel safer and more connected if governments put more money towards Australia's most popular exercise, the head of Victoria Walks says.
Executive officer Ben Rossiter's comments came as Victoria Walks helped launch a new circuit around Long Gully.
"You can spend too much time on encouraging organised sport. What we need to do is focus on the activity women are already doing," he said.
Women aged 18 to 54 are twice as likely as men to walk regularly and prefer to do so with others, Dr Ben Rossiter said.
"So for us it's about overcoming barriers around safety, of not knowing where to walk and who to walk with," Dr Rossiter said.
He has called on the government to provide $5 million dollars specifically to encourage more women to walk as well as dedicated funding pools and strategies to help everyone get outside on strolls.
The Long Gully circuit was launched on Tuesday with the first in a series of walking groups aimed at residents.
"In places like Casey we have seen women starting informal walking groups because of Let's Walk and now they go out together a couple of times a week," Mr Rossiter said.
The Long Gully circuit will soon have more lighting, outdoor fitness equipment, and refurbished artwork, among other improvements, Healthy Heart of Victoria coordinator Alicia O'Brien said.
Her state-funded group - a collection of councils across the Loddon Campaspe formed to combat obesity - is preparing to release results of a 2019 "census" of physical activity across six council areas, including Bendigo's.
While results of the Active Living Census are still being studied, it is clear that walking remains the most popular physical activity around town, Ms O'Brien said.
"That information drills down to a township level so it gives us a really good understanding of people's health behaviors, barriers and whether our infrastructure is meeting people's needs," she said.
The Long Gully Let's Walk circuit is the second to be unveiled this year in Bendigo.
Kangaroo Flat's was launched in September and walking groups there have been well attended, Ms O'Brien said.
"The brochures and walking maps we produced are flying out the door. We've had a few groups pick up that route, including a mums' group which is doing it fortnightly now," she said.
Weekly Long Gully walks will continue until February.
For more information, contact the Long Gully Community Information Centre.
The state government has been contacted for comment.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.