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Walk Across Arizona—Promoting Physical Fitness
By moniquegarcia on Tue, 08/20/2013 - 2:17pm
Physical inactivity and poor dietary habits have been associated with increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. The Arizona Department of Health reports that obesity and overweight affect 60 percent of Arizona’s population. Nationwide, 18 million people have full-blown diabetes and another 41 million already have pre-diabetes. Almost 65 percent of adults are either overweight or obese and 20 to 30 percent of children are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. In light of the links to adverse health outcomes and the continued increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, promoting daily physical activity has emerged as an important strategy for obesity and disease prevention efforts. Walking is a local, inexpensive and convenient way to develop fitness and healthy habits.
Description of Action:
The “Walk Across Arizona” grassroots initiative started in 2001 as a pilot project in an Arizona retirement community. It has since expanded statewide with 14 of the 15 Arizona Counties participating at some point. In 2009, the walking program was reorganized and changed to an 8-week walking program designed for teams of 10 people each, administered through Arizona Cooperative Extension and the UA’s Community Health Advancement Partnership. Teams of friends, neighbors, co-workers and families include people of all ages, from children to senior citizens. Each county has a link on the Walk Across Arizona site, where team captains can access forms and record weekly miles, and county coordinators can manage the program and update local activities. Nutrition, energy levels, social interaction and other factors are also tracked. Weekly newsletters provide encouragement to increase physical activity, vegetable and fruit consumption with tips and nutritious recipes.
During 2001, the first year of the campaign, 34 teams with 329 registered participants walked 48,872 miles. Statewide since its inception, 1,088 teams with 9,529 participants (some repeated) from 14 of Arizona’s 15 counties have reported walking over 2 million miles. Data analyzed from exit surveys of 2009 participants identified the top three benefits of participation: 1) Increased exercise they were already doing (49%), 2) Increased their energy levels (32%), and 3) Helped them to feel less stressed (31%). Participants reported walking more miles during the second half of the campaign and increased their vegetable and fruit consumption according to a comparison of pre and post reported behavior.