Background: Walking interventions improve physical function, reduce fall risk, and prevent mobility disability—even in those with compromised walking ability. However, most prior studies have been conducted in controlled research settings, with no dissemination of an evidence-based walking program for older adults who have mobility limitations and/or are socially isolated. Objectives: This study reports data on the feasibility and acceptability of a community-based walking program (Walk On!) for older adults who are functionally limited, and assesses changes in physical function among attendees. The program sessions focused on longdistance walking, and took place for one-hour, for two days/week, and for 12 weeks at a time. Design: Pilot implementation study. Setting: Local church in Winston-Salem, NC. Participants: 49 program participants; Measurements: Physical function battery and satisfaction survey data, as well as formative evaluation data from six attendees of a focus group, are reported. Results: The majority of the participants were >75 years (71%), female (65%), and presented with low levels of physical function (usual gait speed=0.79±0.16; 30.6% used an assistive device). Satisfaction with the program was high (100% would recommend it to others) and focus group results were overwhelmingly positive. Mean attendance to scheduled sessions was 77%±21%, and 63% of participants attended at least 75% of scheduled sessions (n=8 attended 100%). On average, participants improved their 6-min walk distance by 8.9%, their SPPB score by 15.4%, their timed-up-go time by 9.0%, and their usual gait speed by 11.4%. Conclusion: The results of the initial evaluation of Walk On! show high feasibility and acceptability of the program, as well as efficacy for improving physical function. Further research is needed to evaluate a delivery method for wider implementation of the program and to definitively test its effectiveness for improving function and other health benefits.

(1) B.J. Nicklas, E.A. Chmelo, J. Sheedy, J.B. Moore; J Frailty Aging 2020 in press

Article B. Nicklas