Fit for Life Steps: Results of a Community Walking Intervention in the Rural Mississippi Delta

Background: A collaborative community–university–U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA)/Agricultural Research Service (ARS) partnership developed and implemented a 6-month walking intervention whereby volunteer coaches were trained to lead community walking groups in a rural Mississippi Delta Community.

Objective: Assess the feasibility of implementing community-based participatory research (CBPR), increase physical activity, and improve anthropometric and biological measures.

Methods: This quasi-experimental design examined body mass index, percent body fat, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose, lipid profile, self-reported walking, stages of change, social support, self-efficacy, and decisional balance at enrollment, 3 months, and 6 months. Participants were primarily African-American (99%) women (97%). Changes were evaluated using repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Friedman's test.

Results: Community members actively participated in assessing the problem, identifying the intervention, intervention planning, data collection, and evaluation. Of the 83 enrolled participants, 66 (80%) completed the intervention. Participants exhibited significant improvements in waist circumference (–1.4 inches), systolic blood pressure (–4.3 mmHg), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (+7.9 mg/dL); (P < .001). Self-reported walking per day was 44.8 (SD+52.2) minutes at enrollment, 76.6 (SD+166.6) minutes at 3-months, and 65.9 (SD+89.7) minutes at 6 months (P = .154). A positive stage of change shift occurred in 57% of participants; however, no significant positive changes occurred in the other psychosocial variables.

Conclusion: The process of developing and implementing this CBPR walking intervention was considered successful as evidenced by the community's active contribution and participation in each phase of this research, the undertaking and application of basic research components, significant improvements in several anthropometric and biological values, and sustainability of the collaborative partnership.