What’s the Evidence?

Community-wide campaigns should be used to increase physical activity and improve physical fitness at all ages. Campaigns should be adapted to specific needs and interests of the target populations.

When trying to decide what programs to implement and the activities in which to engage in our communities, no one wants to waste time, money, or energy on things that have not been proven to work. Less than half of all adults meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in the United States, and adults who are not physically active have a higher risk for chronic diseases and early death. Therefore, we want to use the best practices to increase access to places for physical activity and support for physical activity. Increasing physical activity is protective against many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, so supporting people to become more physically active is very important. The challenge is determining how to do this. How do we know what works?

In 2007, the UNM PRC began meeting with Step Into Cuba Alliance members in Cuba, New Mexico, to develop what later became Village Interventions and Venues for Activity (VIVA). The purpose of VIVA was to assist the Alliance in the adaptation, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based strategies for increasing physical activity.

 In Cuba, VIVA-Step Into Cuba developed, implemented, and investigated the dissemination and implementation of the five following population-level strategies to promote physical activity from the Community Guide (for more information see the next section), adapting them for use in rural communities:

Step Into Cuba - Social Support for Physical Activity

Community Wide Campaign

Community-wide campaigns should be  used to increase physical activity and improve physical fitness at all ages. Campaigns should be adapted to specific needs and interests of the target populations.

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Fact Sheet

Community-Wide Campaigns

Community-Wide Campaigns

Improving or Enhancing Access to Places for Physical Activity

Create or enhance access to places for physical activity and provide informational outreach for them.

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Fact Sheet

Access to Places for Physical Activity

Access to Places for Physical Activity

Individually Adapted Health Programs

Implement individually-adapted health behavior change programs to increase physical activity and improve physical fitness at all ages.

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Fact Sheet

Individually Adapted Programs

Individually Adapted Programs

Street-Scale Design

Urban design and land use policies and practices should support physical activity in small geographic areas (generally a few blocks).

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Fact Sheet

Street Scale Design

Street Scale Design

Social Supports at the Community Level

Build, strengthen, and maintain social networks that support increases in physical activity.

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Fact Sheet

Social Support for Physical Activity

Social Support for Physical Activity

Evidence-Based Strategies

The evidence-based strategies were based on the recommendations published, after a review of the best evidence, in the Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, most of the research reviewed in the Community Guide was conducted in urban communities, where people have access to gyms, parks, elevators, stairs, public transportation, and a wider range of lifestyle conditions than are available in most rural communities in New Mexico. For example, one of the recommendations is installation in multistory buildings of point-of-decision prompt signs that say, “Take the stairs instead of the elevator for your heart. “ But many rural communities have no buildings higher than one floor.  Our solution was to adapt the recommendations to apply them in our communities.

At the request of other New Mexico communities , VIVA-Step Into Cuba is now focusing on sharing what we and others  have learned to scale-up to VIVA Connects. Accordingly, we have combined the evidence-based approach from the Community Guide and evidence derived from our experiences in Cuba and are sharing this with other communities across New Mexico.

We want to work with you and your group of interested community members to explore the evidence and come up with a plan for how to increase venues and social support for physical activity in your specific community.

The Community Guide

To learn more about the strategies from the Community Guide used in Cuba, see our Community Guide in Action Story, It Takes a Village on the Community Guide website,  The VIVA story from the Community Guide, and check out the other strategies that we did not use in Cuba but that the Community Guide also recommends.  You can also download Community Guide’s pdf about physical activity here.

To Learn More

Check out the Community Guide’s recommendations for enhancing physical activity and learn more about:

  • Behavioral and Social Approaches
  • Campaigns and Informational Approaches
  • Environmental and Policy Approaches