Improve the Nation's Nutrition and Health
Walk Across Arizona–Exercise Program for Seniors
Statewide, 219 Walk Across Arizona teams reported walking 343,858 miles, an increase of 201 percent in miles walked compared to 2004. Participants walked an average 11.5 miles per person and 98 miles per team per week.
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.
What has been done?
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 2005-2006 involves Maricopa, Pima Graham, Greenlee, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties. Each county has a link on the Walk Across Arizona site, http://www.cals.arizona.edu/walkacrossaz, where team captains can access forms and county coordinators can record weekly miles and update local activities.
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.
By 2005, a total of 1,908 people had registered for the program, with 831 or 45 percent completing exit forms. This number was more than double the number of people completing the program in 2001. Statewide, 219 teams reported walking 343,858 miles, an increase of 201 percent in miles walked and an increase of 242 percent in the number of teams formed compared to 2004. Participants walked an average 11.5 miles per person and 98 miles per team per week. Anecdotal responses from the completed final exit forms included 48 percent responding that “Walk Across Arizona increase the amount of exercise I was already doing;” 43 percent reported that it “increased my energy” and 39 percent said it “helped me feel less stressed.”
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.
Cooperative Extension - Community Health Advancement Partnership
20 Community collaborators/sponsors
Linda Block, assistant agent
Pima County Cooperative Extension
The University of Arizona
4210 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719-1109
Tel.: (520) 626-5161, FAX (520) 626-5849
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