LITTLE ROCK — Lt. Gov. Bill Halter on Thursday launched an initiative encouraging Arkansans to take a 12-week challenge to exercise often and eat healthier, a program the two men vying to replace him vowed to continue if elected.

Halter announced the start of the “Your Heart Is In Your Hands” effort that will reward participants with medals for making good health choices. He was joined by Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Shane Broadway and Republican candidate Mark Darr.

Halter, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election in November. Halter ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate earlier this year, but lost in a runoff to incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Both Broadway and Darr said they planned to continue the program if elected.

“We thought it was important to demonstrate to folks that as partisan as things get and as hard as both of these gentlemen are campaigning that at the end of the day both of them are concerned about Arkansans first,” Halter said in a news conference at the state Capitol.

Arkansas has traditionally ranked low among the states on a variety of health indicators. Arkansas is among nine states where at least 30 percent of the adult population is obese.

The program is part of a national campaign to reduce obesity and improve heart health by the National Lieutenant Governors Association that is funded by grants from drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Under the program, participants register online and earn points for exercise and for healthy food choices. At the end of the 12-week period, each person who accumulates enough points receives a medal.

Broadway and Darr both said they will participate in the program. Broadway, a state senator from Bryant, said he likes how the program emphasizes personal responsibility for making healthy choices.

“I’m going to eat from the salad bar a lot more,” said Darr, who owns a pizza restaurant in northwest Arkansas.

Broadway and Darr have been locked in a tight race for lieutenant governor, and Republicans say they believe they have a chance to pick up the office. Recent polling has shown Broadway with a slight lead over Darr in the race.

Halter has focused primarily on the state’s lottery — which he helped create by backing a constitutional amendment approved by voters creating the games — during his tenure as lieutenant governor, but has also promoted health issues. Last year he helped organize and promote a free medical clinic in Little Rock.