Walk Across Arizona-Exercise Program for Seniors

Improve the Nation's Nutrition and Health
Research Year: 
2006
Issue: 

Arizona continues to experience a surge in population and is now rated the fastest growing state in the nation. Within this larger population, will be increased numbers of people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Nationwide, 18 million people have full-blown diabetes and 41 million already have pre-diabetes. Another trend is toward more overweight adults and children; almost 65 percent of adults are either overweight or obese and 20-30 percent of children are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. These problems and many of the diseases commonly thought to accompany aging can be prevented. In 1997 a statewide partnership was established that combines the resources of the UA 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 lifestyle program that could be maintained in a community and replicated in other communities in Arizona.

Description of Action: 

n 2000 CHAPS partners formulated a set of visions for a healthy Greater Green Valley based upon a 1998 needs assessment. One specific vision was to "Promote a Healthy Lifestyle" among residents of the community. Task members were identified, and regular meetings have been held since September of 2000 with 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, consumption of fruits and vegetables, 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 the Walk Across Arizona website athttp://cals.arizona.edu/walkacrossaz/

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 kick-off, motivational and culmination programs. The 16-week campaign for 2006-2007 involves Maricopa, Pima Graham, Greenlee, Pinal, LaPaz and Yuma counties. 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. This past year a weekly electronic newsletter covering nutrition and physical activity was added to the program.

Impact: 

Statewide, since its inception in 2001, 633 "WalkAcross Arizona"teams with 5,669 participants from 11 of Arizona's 15 counties have participated in this walking program and have reported walking a combined 1,164,681 miles.

In 2001, 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. In contrast, by 2006, a total of 1,242 people from 138 teams had registered for the program and walked 285,251 miles.

In Pima county 626 (85 percent) completed the final exit forms. Pima County participants walked an average of 16.6 miles per week per person and 2,546 miles per team for the 77 teams. Anecdotal responses form the completed final exit forms included 46 percent responding that "Walk Across Arizona increased the amount of exercise I was already doint,: 38 percent reported that it "increased my energy" and 29 percent said it "helped me feel less stressed."

Testimonials:
At one retirement community, the team captain is 94 years of age, the oldest participant in the program. At the same retirement community, 83-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: 

The University of Arizona

4210 N. Campbell Avenue

Tucson, AZ 85719-1109

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