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Arkansans "Walk Across the State" for Better Health

Walk Across Arkansas is an eight-week program to encourage people to get more exercise. It's sponsored by the University of Arkansas in order to reduce the state's high obesity rate. (Kevin Patrick Allen)
Walk Across Arkansas is an eight-week program to encourage people to get more exercise. It's sponsored by the University of Arkansas in order to reduce the state's high obesity rate. (Kevin Patrick Allen)
February 16, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansans are being urged to lace up their shoes for the next eight weeks. Walk Across Arkansas has begun, with the goal of getting more people in shape and interested in exercising.

LaVona Traywick, health and aging specialist with the University of Arkansas, says participants don't actually walk across the state - rather, they keep track of minutes spent walking as if they were.

Traywick's job is to encourage seniors to start exercising. She says she's seen some great success stories in the 10 years of the program. She recalls a man in his 60s who reluctantly signed up in 2008.

"At the beginning of the eight weeks, he could barely walk a half a mile, but at the end of the eight weeks he was walking five miles a day," says Traywick. "And so, here it is 2016, and Joe is still walking."

A much-publicized national survey last year labeled Arkansas the "fattest" state in the nation. Schools are encouraged to participate in Walk Across Arkansas, because research shows those who pick up the exercise habit early are likely to continue later in life.

Traywick cites another case of a woman who didn't want to walk, but decided to ride a bicycle instead.

"It started catching on. Her adult children were like, 'Well, what's mom doing?' Then, her grandkids started riding with her," she says. "So, not only did she change it for herself, she changed it for the next generations, too."

Traywick says teams are encouraged to participate because research shows people are more likely to stick to the program if they work together.

And for folks who are taking the goal literally, Traywick has the mileage estimates.

"If you go across the state horizontally, it's about 239 miles," she says. "But if you're going from corner to corner, like up in Benton County down to Chico County, it's 311 miles."

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR