The start of a new year often includes personal resolutions to exercise more and lead a healthier lifestyle. Walk Across Arkansas, an eight-week, group-based exercise program supported by the Cooperative Extension Service, is designed to help Arkansans do just that.
Modeled after the Walk Kansas program, Walk Across Arkansas is held twice a year in the fall and spring. Participants record the number of minutes spent being physically active each day – any moderate to vigorous physical activity that increases the heart rate counts. Registration for the spring 2022 session opens Monday, February 28, and the event lasts from March 14 through May 15. There can be a minimum of one person on a team, up to a maximum of 30 people.
Heather Wingo, extension health program associate for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Walk Across Arkansas helps participants improve their strength and stamina and reduce the risk of several health issues, including cardiovascular disease, stroke and high cholesterol.
“Walk Across Arkansas is an important program for Arkansans because it is free and it supports people coming together to be physically active without having to pay gym membership fees,” Wingo said. “It gives them the ability to encourage one another to be better in their health.”
Past Walk Across Arkansas participants have reported numerous benefits from the program, Wingo said.
“They were more consistent in being physically active, and several people commented that they were getting better sleep, or they felt overall better,” Wingo said. “There was also a pretty big number of people who said they felt reduced feelings of anxiety and depression.”
Wingo said the group-based aspect of the program creates a built-in network of support and accountability. In 2021, the Walk Across Arkansas program was updated with changes to its website and an increased maximum number of participants per team. This increase also changed the way teams are scored. Formerly, the total number of team minutes was added up for the team score, but now, the team average – total number of minutes logged divided by the number of team participants – is used to score.
“That change seemed to really help teams be more active overall, because if you had someone who was not logging any minutes, then it would actually hurt the entire team score, so that helped with the team morale,” Wingo said.
Wingo said participation in the 2021 fall and spring sessions increased from the year before. In 2021, the combined fall and spring Walk Across Arkansas participants logged 2.3 million minutes of physical activity, and 1,219 people participated across 293 teams.
Wingo said she hopes the spring 2022 session will see even higher enrollment numbers, and that the increased maximum number of team participants will encourage more schoolteachers to have classroom competitions.
Anyone can participate in the Walk Across Arkansas program. Division of Agriculture employees must use a personal email address, not their work email address, to register.