In 2007, AARP developed a year-long walking program, Step & Stride with Ruby (SSWR), supported by the AARP Foundation Women's Leadership Circle (WLC) and in collaboration with the Red Hat Society (RHS), to test the connection between the social aspects of group exercise (i.e., walking) and the likelihood that participants will sustain regular exercise over time.
Through an online application process, socio-demographic and RHS Chapter characteristics were used to select a stratified random sample of 21 Study Chapters for a total of 556 participants and eight matching Control Chapters with a total of 83 participants. Key findings of an evaluation survey administered at the beginning and end of the program include the following:
- A retention rate of 87% for Study Chapter and 49% for Control Chapter respondents supports the notion that a program with intact social groups can increase the likelihood of individuals remaining in an exercise program over an extended period of time. This is in contrast to an average of 29% who have participated for the full length of the AARP 10 Week Walking program.
- Study Chapters had a much higher retention rate and a greater increase in the amount of time spent exercising in a week than Control Chapters, suggesting that the additional features that the Study Chapters were exposed to have added value for increasing physical activity among cohesive social groups.
- Just over half of respondents (52%) said it was personally important for their Chapter to win the competition, while nearly 9 in 10 (85%) said that they did not want to let their Chapter down.
- One-third or more of all respondents reported positive changes in energy, endurance, weight, and mood.
- Virtually all respondents said they are likely to continue walking for exercise.
Both Study and Control Chapters administered a survey in January 2007 to members who wanted to participate in the program; 529 Chapter members completed the baseline survey. A follow-up survey was mailed to all participants after the program ended in February 2008; 424 of the 529 participants returned the follow-up survey, for a response rate of 80%. For additional information, contact Helen Brown at 202-434-6172. (84 pages)