Walk Across Arizona–Exercise Program for Seniors

Improve the Nation's Nutrition and Health
Research Year: 
2003
Issue: 

With the US population over age 65 growing rapidly, public interest in improving the quality of life for "seniors" is increasing. Many of the diseases commonly thought to accompany aging can be prevented and seniors are looking for ways to keep their remaining years healthy, active, and enjoyable. In 1997 a statewide partnership was established that combines the resources of the college of Public Health (COPH) and Cooperative Extension (CE). An essential component of the community Health Advancement Partnership (CHAPS) in Pima County is to help contain health care cost through the development and evaluation of an effective seniors lifestyle program that could be maintained in a community and replicated in other communities in Arizona.

Description of Action: 

In 2000 the Health and Human Services Committee (HHSC) of Green Valley Community Coordinating Council (GVCCC) formulated a set of visions for a healthy Green Valley based upon a 1998 needs assessment. One specific vision was to "Promote a Healthy Lifestyle" among residents of the community. A forum was held as part of the HHSC community meetings to focus on how to implement the vision of a healthy lifestyle. Task members were identified, and regular meetings have been held since September of 2000 with the CHAPS acting as the lead agency. This collaborative effort with the retirement community led to the development of "Walk Across Arizona" using formats and materials similar to programs used in Michigan and Texas. The theoretical basis for the program was to use social support networks to increase physical activity levels within the community by developing and maintaining walking clubs. The 16-week walking program is designed for teams of up to 10 people. The teams have a friendly competition to see who can get their pals, neighbors, co-workers, and family out to build a healthy habit and walk for fitness. To evaluate the success and benefits of the benefits of the walking program, entry, exit, and tracking forms were developed to characterize the participants, and to track their physical activity habits, levels of energy, social interaction, and satisfaction with their community. The miles logged by teams are collected by team captains each week and recorded on Arizona maps posted at various places around the community, so everyone can see the progress. Participants pay a small registration fee for cost recovery of materials and program incentives. Additional sponsorship from community agencies and businesses were sought to provide extra incentives at the program kick-off and culmination.

The 16-week campaign for 2003-2004 is currently underway with participation in Cochise, Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties. Three Cooperative Extension teams in Maricopa County and 12 in Yuma county started in December, 2003, and January 2004, respectively. Each county has a link from the Walk Across Arizona site, http://www.cals.arizona.edu/walkacrossaz, where teams can access forms and county leaders can update a calendar of monthly activities.

Impact: 

In the first year of the campaign, 34 teams of 10 individuals walked 48,872 miles with 329 registered participants; the average number of days walked by participants increased from 4.1 at entry to 4.6 upon exit, and an average of 11.4 miles per person and 91.2 miles per team were walked per week. The second year of the campaign ended in February, 2003, with 37 teams registered, including 12 Cooperative Extension teams that were part of the Family and Consumer Science Healthy Lifestyle initiative in six counties; 355 individuals reported walking 62,054 miles at the end of the campaign. Fifty-on percent of the walkers in year two reported at the end of the 16-week walking program that they had increased energy, while another 43 percent reported feeling less stressed. Teams walked an average 4.6 days per week and averaged 48.5 minutes of walking per day.

The third year of the campaign, begun in early November, 2003, had 47 teams, including 15 teams of 150 miners at Phelps Dodge, Sierrita, Inc., in Pima County. In that county, 460 individuals reported 38,455 miles walked as of December 31, 2003. Three Cooperative Extension teams in Maricopa County and 12 in Yuma county started in December, 2003, and January 2004, respectively. At one retirement community, the team captain is a 90-year-old woman with a team member 93 years of age, the oldest participant in the program. At the same retirement community, 82-year-old identical twin sisters walk an average 16 miles per week. "We love to exercise, but it isn't to try to live to be 100," says one of the twins. "We just want good quality of life." "I enjoy being part of a team because it keeps me accountable. Our captain constantly motivates us, which makes the program fun. I have more energy than I did at the start of the program and I plan on continuing even after Walk Across Arizona ends!" –participant.

Funding Agencies: 

Cooperative Extension - Community Health Advancement Partnership; Participant fees; 20 Community collaborators/sponsors

Conact Name: 
Linda Block
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

Pima County Cooperative Extension

The University of Arizona

4210 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719-1109

Tel.: (520) 626-5161, FAX (520) 626-5849