Changes in diet and physical activity resulting from the Strong Hearts, Healthy Communities randomized cardiovascular disease risk reduction multilevel intervention trial. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Women living in rural areas face unique challenges in achieving a heart-healthy lifestyle that are related to multiple levels of the social-ecological framework. The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes in diet and physical activity, which are secondary outcomes of a community-based, multilevel cardiovascular disease risk reduction intervention designed for women in rural communities. METHODS: Strong Hearts, Healthy Communities was a six-month, community-randomized trial conducted in 16 rural towns in Montana and New York, USA. Sedentary women aged 40 and older with overweight and obesity were recruited. Intervention participants (eight towns) attended twice weekly exercise and nutrition classes for 24weeks (48 total). Individual-level components included aerobic exercise, progressive strength training, and healthy eating practices; a civic engagement component was designed to address social and built environment factors to support healthy lifestyles. The control group (eight towns) attended didactic healthy lifestyle classes monthly (six total). Dietary and physical activity data were collected at baseline and post-intervention. Dietary data were collected using automated self-administered 24-h dietary recalls, and physical activity data were collected by accelerometry and self-report. Data were analyzed using multilevel linear regression models with town as a random effect. RESULTS: At baseline, both groups fell short of meeting many recommendations for cardiovascular health. Compared to the control group, the intervention group realized significant improvements in intake of fruit and vegetables combined (difference: 0.6 cup equivalents per day, 95% CI 0.1 to 1.1, p=.026) and in vegetables alone (difference: 0.3 cup equivalents per day, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.6, p=.016). For physical activity, there were no statistically significant between-group differences based on accelerometry. By self-report, the intervention group experienced a greater increase in walking MET minutes per week (difference: 113.5 MET-minutes per week, 95% CI 12.8 to 214.2, p=.027). CONCLUSIONS: Between-group differences in dietary and physical activity behaviors measured in this study were minimal. Future studies should consider how to bolster behavioral outcomes in rural settings and may also continue to explore the value of components designed to enact social and environmental change. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT02499731. Registered 16 July 2015.

published proceedings

  • Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act

author list (cited authors)

  • Folta, S. C., Paul, L., Nelson, M. E., Strogatz, D., Graham, M., Eldridge, G. D., ... Seguin-Fowler, R. A.

complete list of authors

  • Folta, Sara C||Paul, Lynn||Nelson, Miriam E||Strogatz, David||Graham, Meredith||Eldridge, Galen D||Higgins, Michael||Wing, David||Seguin-Fowler, Rebecca A

publication date

  • October 2019