Walking groups help Sumter’s African-Americans get active for better health
If you are an African-American adult living in Sumter, South Carolina, the following information may be of particular interest to you. African-American residents in Sumter are more likely than white residents to be impacted by chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer—with up to eight times higher death rates, depending on the disease. They are more likely to live in poverty, which increases their risk for chronic disease.
Studies show that regular exercise/physical activity lowers risk of obesity and chronic disease; walking is the most common physical activity among people who are regularly active; and walking is a preferred activity in Sumter.
With these facts in mind and a $5,000 grant from the South Carolina Eat Smart, Move More Coalition, Sumter County Active Lifestyles (SCAL) conducted a pilot project from July 2008-July 2009 in predominately lower-income, African-American areas of Sumter. The Heritage Health Walk Project (HHWP) tested whether the availability and activity of neighborhood walking groups would get residents to walk more for exercise and better health.
During the pilot year:
- HHWP was introduced to the community with a kick-off event, at which attendees were invited to later be trained as neighborhood walking group leaders.
- Five African-American women were subsequently trained as walking group leaders and were provided technical assistance, tools and resources to organize and maintain their walking groups.
- Three surveys (pre- and mid-intervention and a final) were administered among a subset of the walkers to measure the impact of participating in walking groups on their personal level of walking for exercise.
With six neighborhood walking groups formed as a result of the HHWP, Sumter residents now have more options to walk for exercise, health, enjoyment and socializing—one step at a time.
- Four of the walk leaders organized six walking groups, with a total of 28 members among them, all African-American adults. The groups are located in northern, central and southern parts of Sumter.
- The walker survey results showed that the majority of walking group participants joined a walking group to become more active. Their participation in the group increased their level of walking for exercise from what it was prior to joining the group (2.8 days per week/42 minutes per session versus 2 days per week/37 minutes per session).
- The walking group leaders, themselves, have experienced many benefits from leading a group and are eager to continue their groups in the future. Said one leader: “This project is bringing people together and helping them take responsibility for their own health.”
As a result of its involvement in the HHWP, Trinity Missionary Baptist Church is building six walking trails (two ¼-mile, two ½-mile and two 1-mile) on its new property.
CONTACT: Linda M. Pekuri, MPH, RD, LD
Executive Director, Sumter County Active Lifestyles
155 Haynsworth St., Sumter, SC 29150