It’s raining outside. I do not have the time in my day. Walking is not vigorous enough to actually benefit my health. These are only a few of the excuses individuals use on a regular basis to justify a lack of daily physical activity. So how can practitioners reach communities regarding the importance of walking and staying active? Dr. Gregory Heath discusses some of the approaches and strategies as well as keys to success of implementing community and school level walking programs to increase individuals’ overall health and lower risk of chronic disease.

A large barrier to the success of walking programs is a lack of knowledge on the part of the community. The national physical activity guidelines suggest a minimum dosage of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week to receive any health benefits. This could be spread into a short ten-minute brisk walk each morning and evening throughout every day of the week, or condensed into more vigorous activities on fewer days of the week, but either way physical activity promotes many health benefits. Dr. Heath discusses the importance of increasing this awareness using broad, multicomponent strategi
es that reach across many sectors. Implementing walking programs requires partnership among not only the local community health department, but also the schools, parks and recreation department, neighborhoods and citizens themselves. For example, many walking school bus interventions or Kids Walk-To-School programs require organization and advocacy at the school level via teacher support as well as parental
involvement.

Another important key to success is implementation of a social support network, a behavioral approach to walking interventions. Providing social support and groups can dispel many of the previously mentioned excuses. Exercise Honolulu, an initiative that aimed to improve walkability by implementing walking events at a central location, provided both a measure of accountability and a social environment in which to engage by establishing 6 Sunday walks throughout 25 neighborhoods. This campaign involved an informational approach in addition to the initiative being promoted via media press releases and radio advertisements to disseminate the benefits of the event.

Practitioners can utilize this overview of approaches and keys to success to help implement walking programs within their own communities. Ensuring a successful program requires multi-sector cooperation and coordination, appropriate use of promotional techniques, and provision of a social support to ensure an enjoyable environment.

 

“Effective Walking and Walkability Interventions” Webinar (August 3, 2016)