Due to COVID-19, pilot communities are adapting their campaigns to help people stay safe while they get active. This series will highlight local events and initiatives from the community pilot program — including creative ways to promote physical activity during social distancing.
This installment highlights a successful virtual launch event that took place on April 25, 2020 in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.
Pilot community at a glance: Cabarrus County, North Carolina
Community type: Suburban
Population estimate: 216,453
Lead agency: Cabarrus Health Alliance
Lead agency mission: Achieving the highest level of individual and community health through collaborative action
Lead agency website: cabarrushealth.org/
Pairing Move Your Way with a Community Walking Challenge
Move Your Way pilot organization Cabarrus Health Alliance is a founding member of Walk Cabarrus — an initiative that aims to help residents of Cabarrus County, North Carolina get active by walking more.
Walk Cabarrus set an ambitious goal for their year-long community walking challenge: 1 billion steps. The Walk Cabarrus organizers knew that to reach this goal, they would need to engage all members of the community — even people who hadn’t been active before. And to achieve that level of engagement, they paired up with Move Your Way.
“Move Your Way is the perfect complement to our walking challenge,” says Lisa Perry, community health partner for Walk Cabarrus. “The Move Your Way messages explain to prospective participants why physical activity is important, and how every little bit counts. And then the walking challenge provides an easy way to get started.”
Making the Move to a Virtual Launch
Cabarrus Health Alliance planned to launch their local Move Your Way campaign during a Cabarrus Chamber 5K event in March 2020.
But when COVID-19 made in-person activities impossible, they seized the opportunity to pivot to a virtual format — and to help people stay active and connected while social distancing. Walk Cabarrus invited residents to walk separately, log their steps online, and work together to reach the launch-day goal of 5 million steps.
At the time of the rescheduled launch on April 25, North Carolina was under a statewide stay-at-home order. Perry says these challenging circumstances made their virtual event all the more impactful. “At a time when people were feeling isolated, this challenge brought them together online for one collective effort,” she says.
Staying Connected — One Step at a Time
Perry says the key to virtual engagement was to make people feel like they were getting active together, while staying physically apart. Walk Cabarrus set up a Facebook group where Cabarrus residents could connect with their friends and neighbors. By the April launch, more than 400 people had registered online to participate in the community walking challenge — and by August, participation was up to 1,800 people.
The campaign website encourages participation by displaying a step-count leader board and featuring step leaders in a “Walker Spotlight.” The step leader on launch day (with over 1 million steps!) was a local UPS delivery worker, illustrating a key Move Your Way message: you can multitask while you’re getting physical activity.
All this friendly competition helped encourage Cabarrus residents to keep putting one foot in front of the other — both to make it onto the leader board, and to help reach the community step goals. “A collective challenge really motivated people,” Perry says.
Generating Excitement with Giveaways
Since Walk Cabarrus organizers couldn’t hand out fliers and other campaign materials in person, they designated neighborhood captains to distribute “swag packs” to residents’ mailboxes. Local captains in 12 neighborhoods distributed a total of 2,400 packs filled with branded magnets and materials from Move Your Way and Walk Cabarrus.
During the launch event, Walk Cabarrus held live giveaways on Facebook and Instagram. Participants could win Walk Cabarrus merchandise — like bandanas and phone wallets — by posting selfies showing how they get active or watching Move Your Way campaign videos and commenting with their own activity tips. People also shared screenshots of their walking routes on their map apps, serving as further inspiration for their neighbors.
After the event, Perry hosted a recap of the launch in the style of John Krasinski’s popular “Some Good News” online videos. She used this playful style to share Cabarrus County’s own good news — that the community is staying connected and getting more active through walking, even during the pandemic. Community members logged almost 4.5 million steps on launch day, and the overall count was nearly 500 million (plus 12 million pet steps!) by early August.
Perry says that the community really enjoys keeping track of their steps and sharing their successes during social distancing. And she hopes people will feel the impact of Walk Cabarrus and Move Your Way in their lives long after the campaign ends. As one local resident told her: “This was the motivation I needed to get out and get moving.”
Related Healthy People 2030 topics:
Related Healthy People 2030 objectives:
- Reduce the proportion of adults who do no physical activity in their free time — PA‑01
- Increase the proportion of adults who do enough aerobic physical activity for substantial health benefits — PA‑02
- Increase the proportion of adults who do enough aerobic physical activity for extensive health benefits — PA‑03
- Increase the proportion of adults who do enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity — PA‑05
- Increase the proportion of adolescents who do enough aerobic physical activity — PA‑06
- Increase the proportion of children who do enough aerobic physical activity — PA‑09
- Increase the proportion of adults who walk or bike to get places — PA‑10
- Increase the proportion of adolescents who walk or bike to get places — PA‑11