Improving Walkability in Rural Areas

University of New Mexico and
University of South Carolina, Prevention Research Centers

Grandparents With Grandchildren Walking Through Countryside

Two PRC programs conducted research and developed strategies that led to more people walking in their rural areas and improved places for walking.

The University of New Mexico PRCExternal and Step into Cuba created Village Interventions and Venues for Activity (VIVA) in Cuba, New Mexico, to increase physical activity by:

  • Holding community-wide campaigns that included creating a website (www.stepintocuba.orgExternal)  to provide information about trails and developing walking guides.
  • Creating social support interventions by forming new walking groups and  community-wide hikes.
  • Enhancing walkability by improving and creating 10 trails and sidewalks and developing a mobile app to promote improved trails and sidewalks.
  • Implementing policies to promote walking by partnering with transportation agencies to construct new sidewalks along a busy highway and to connect destinations in Cuba.

Research impacted local policies, social support groups, trainings and materials, and improving conditions of parks and trails.

The University of South Carolina (Columbia) PRCExternal  and a local coalition created Sumter County on The Move! to increase walking in Sumter County, South Carolina. Nearly 300 adults participated in the 6-month group-based walking program.  The new walking groups were formed from existing social networks of friends and acquaintances. The program challenged participants to meet federal physical activity guidelinesExternal of at least 2 and half hours of physical activity per week by:

  • Changing local policies to allow longer hours at parks and adding more police patrols.
  • Providing tips on setting walking goals and tracking progress.
  • Improving conditions of trails and parks.
  • Providing group leaders with trainings and materials to share with their walking groups.

Both PRC programs show how working with community partners can improve and promote walking and walkability in rural communities.