For those wondering how to become more physically active, walking across Texas could be a good place to start, according to research from the Family and Community Health unit of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
The study, published in BMC Public Health, confirmed the effectiveness of the Walk Across Texas! program to increase and maintain physical activity over eight weeks, even among inactive or low-active participants.
“With the known difficulties many people face in just getting started with physical activity, one of the most encouraging findings from this study was Walk Across Texas! not only attracted participants from all physical activity levels, but also helped inactive and low-active participants become and remain physically active over the course of the program,” said Mark Faries, Ph.D., associate professor in family and community health and principal investigator for the research.
Other study authors from the Texas A&M University System included Ethan Faries, Kristen Keenen and Stephen Green, Ph.D.
About Walk Across Texas!
Walk Across Texas! is an eight-week community program delivered through a web-based platform to help people of various ages and abilities establish the habit of regular physical activity.
“Walk Across Texas! challenges teams to track and log mileage to virtually walk across the state of Texas — a distance of 832 miles,” said Michael Lopez, the study’s co-author and AgriLife Extension program specialist.
Lopez said through a team-based approach, participants are engaged in a friendly competition to promote engagement during the program. Local sponsored events facilitated by AgriLife Extension county agents happen across the state, but the program allows for year-round participation.
Faries said despite its 20-year history of successful implementation, the Walk Across Texas! program had never before been formally evaluated.
“With the strong history of Walk Across Texas!, its many success stories, alongside the limited research on the effectiveness of community- and web-based physical activity programs, this study provided us an opportunity to more formally determine the evidence-base for Walk Across Texas!” he said.
To this end, the research team examined week-one to week-eight changes in self-reported physical activity in over 11,000 adults who participated in the program in 2016, which aimed to provide insight into the statewide program’s effectiveness. They also wanted to see if any changes in physical activity occurred across various physical activity levels, ages, genders and races/ethnicities.
Overall, the study results found that self-reported physical activity significantly improved from the first to the eighth week, increasing an average of nearly five miles per week, which translates to an additional 11,000 steps per week. Similar results were found for all activities levels, and improvements did not vary between gender, age, race or ethnicity.
“These results support the ability of the Walk Across Texas! program to positively impact physical activities in a diverse group of participants,” Faries noted. “We did find that only around 25% of the participants were classified as ‘inactive’ or ‘low active’ at the beginning of the program, which provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share the positive results with those who are searching for a safe, effective way to become physically active.”
The research team was unable to shed specific light on why the program was effective in helping participants achieve an initial bump in and maintenance of physical activity, but hypothesize the potential benefits of the program’s team-based approach to garner motivation and support.
“Walk Across Texas! is designed for participants to be encouraged and supported by a team, using a fun and motivating approach. The program gives participants the freedom to be active at their own pace, without setting unrealistic expectations,” said Michael Lopez. “These results confirm that if you want to increase your physical activity, in a supportive environment, no matter where you are starting from, Walk Across Texas! is a wonderful option.”
For more information on Walk Across Texas!, go to WalkAcrossTexas.org