Extension Get Fit helps Arkansans live healthier
Jan. 20, 2017
By Emily Thompson
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Extension Get Fit is community-based program
- Program has proven healthcare savings
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Imagine a certified fitness program without a high membership cost, or the intimidation of a slick gym; one led by someone you know in a venue as close as your church or school. That’s the formula for Extension Get Fit, a program that’s already making an impact on the amount spent on healthcare in Arkansas.
Extension Get Fit is a step in the right direction for Arkansas, which ranks sixth in the nation for its adult obesity rate of 34.5 percent, according to the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers the Get Fit program in more than 40 counties for just $12 a year.
The class follows a structured training regime designed by Arkansas Extension Service specialists to use ankle and hand weights with exercises that can be tailored to different fitness levels.
Participation in Get Fit reduces the likelihood of a hospital visit and can reduce the amount of time during a hospital stay, said Katie Cullum, White County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
It serves a social outlet and a base of support for those trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
“We have a lot of fun,” Cullum said. “It’s kind of like a support group.”
While the Extension Get Fit program targets older adults, the program is open to anyone.
“I think that anyone would benefit from this program,” Cullum said.
Lisa Washburn, associate professor-health for the Division of Agriculture, said that one of the ways that they are able to offer this service in so many areas is the use of local volunteers.
Classes are led by community volunteers that usually start out taking the classes themselves and then go through a training program. This means that classes can be offered closer to rural communities, in venues like churches and community centers.
“It really, truly is a community based program,” said Washburn.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week and should engage in muscle strengthening exercise that works all major muscle groups twice a week. Washburn said adults 65 and older should add balance exercises in addition to the aerobic and strengthening exercises recommended for younger people.
Participating in a group exercise program and maintaining a well-balanced exercise regimen is beneficial to health. It reduces risk of heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some cancers. It also improves sleep patterns and reduces stress.
Cullum said from the data collected from past participants in the program, she can see an improvement in their strength, agility and flexibility.
Ashley County reported that the program indicated a healthcare cost savings of $629,711.
Two Ashley County participants said that they lost weight from the program, and one credits the program with saving him from having knee surgery.
Washburn said that the program can not only help participants maintain or increase their fitness level, but also help them gain confidence.
As people age, they might see a decline in what they were once able to do physically. The Get Fit program helps participants rebuild and maintain strength, making them a role model for health at a later age for their kids and grandkids, said Washburn.
For information on Get Fit program times, locations and pricing, contact your county extension office.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service