"Love Self, Embrace Health!"
The Women’s Walking Program is a 12-month program for midlife African American women ages 40-65. The purpose of the program is to increase physical activity at home, work, and leisure. Studies show that increased physical activity leads to better heart health.
The Women’s Walking Program is based on over 20 years of research. Our beginning studies were on heart health and fitness in working midlife women and how to help midlife women add walking for exercise into their busy lives. After those studies, we focused on reaching midlife African American women. We did this by asking African American women who had been in our earlier studies for their suggestions. We added workshops in our next study, in which midlife African American women walked for exercise several times a week. In our most recent study, the workshops became group meetings and midlife African American women increased their physical activity throughout the day - at home, work, and during leisure time.
The Women’s Walking Program today has the following features:
- A personal physical activity plan and pedometer for each woman.
- Small group meetings every five weeks. The meetings are led by an African American nurse experienced in helping women increase their physical activity. After the women watch a video with African American role models, they share experiences and help each other with problem solving. The videos cover such topics as how to overcome environmental and safety barriers to physical activity and how to deal with breaks in increasing steps by managing time or stress.
- An automated telephone system for each woman to report her daily steps. Each report is used to generate a personal plan for increasing steps. Each woman reviews her own plan with her group leader at the next group meeting.
In between group meetings, women also may receive two personal or automated motivational phone calls.
- Women receiving the personal phone calls talk over physical activity experiences, barriers, motivation, and confidence with their group leader. The group leader listens, provides feedback on goals, and supports each woman’s progress.
- Women receiving the automated phone calls listen to motivational messages recorded by a local African American singer/actress. To end each message, women can make a personal selection of pre-recorded tips on ways to increase physical activity.
This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.