More than 100 Bexar County employees recently gathered in front of the Bexar County Courthouse in downtown San Antonio to kick off the annual Walk Across Texas! health and wellness event presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Walk Across Texas! is an eight-week statewide program to help Texans establish the habit of regular physical activity. Teams and individuals work together to reach the goal of walking 832 miles — the distance between the two farthest apart points in Texas.
Walk Across Texas! events, presented by AgriLife Extension in collaboration with local communities, are held at different times throughout the state.
Walk Across Texas! – Bexar County
More than 350 people on 44 teams signed up for the Walk Across Texas! program in Bexar County. Some of the more interesting team names were Agony Of De Feet, A Walk to RememBexar and Kickin’ Asphalt.
The program’s kickoff began with an abbreviated walk due to the triple-digit heat and ended at the new Bexar County Wellness Center. Participants toured the new facility as they cooled down from their initial walk.
“We’ve held the Walk Across Texas! event in Bexar County for several years, and it continues to be a very popular event among the county employees,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension agent — family and community health, Bexar County. “These employees have developed a friendly competition among one another, and each team tries to log the most miles.”
Gutierrez noted much of the program’s popularity is because walking is an “inclusive” activity that almost anyone can participate in, plus it is one of the safer ways to get exercise during the pandemic.
“People are still concerned about congregate settings, social distancing and the possibility of getting COVID, and outdoor activities are considered to be among the safest,” she said.
Nelda Leyba Speller, director for the agency’s Bexar County office said the Walk Across Texas! program is an opportunity for people to work together for the common purpose of becoming more physically fit.
“AgriLife Extension works with the county to support and complement their employee health and wellness objectives through their worksite wellness programs and the new Bexar County Wellness Center,” she said.
Speller said another goal of the program is to introduce county employees to the variety of educational programs offered by AgriLife Extension.
“We want participants to know we have a diverse number of resources and programs for health and wellness, including general nutrition, living with diabetes, healthy cooking and much more,” she said.
Speller said the success of the Bexar County program shows how Walk Across Texas! can be beneficial in other urban as well as rural communities as a means for weight loss, increased energy and inspiring more healthy changes in a person’s lifestyle.
Supporting countywide wellness
Thomas Guevara, chief of staff to the county manager and long-time supporter of Walk Across Texas!, said the program provides county employees with a way to get back into the practice of regular physical exercise along with helping build teamwork and camaraderie.
Guevara said employee wellness is a priority in that it not only helps employees become healthier but also enhances morale and helps reduce instances of absenteeism related to poor health.
“Along with engaging in programs like Walk Across Texas! we also have opened a state-of-the-art Bexar County Wellness Center to offer county employees additional fitness options,” he said.
Nicole Hall, Bexar County wellness coordinator, said during this Walk Across Texas! event participants were also being provided with information on air-conditioned locations where they may walk indoors.
“The Walk Across Texas! program also provides other activity equivalents you can substitute for miles walked, like using a treadmill, bicycling, working out or even gardening — whatever creates some degree of exertion,” Hall noted
“We’re also reminding walkers to wear a hat and sunscreen when they are in the heat and to hydrate regularly,” she said.
More about the Walk Across Texas! program
The Walk Across Texas! program is coordinated by the Family and Community Health unit of AgriLife Extension. For more than 25 years, the program has been helping Texas youth and adults get into the habit of regular exercise through individual and team efforts.
Although the program focuses primarily on walking as the means to achieve program goals, a program modification allows a variety of other physical activities to be counted toward individual and team mileage.
A study published recently in BMC Public Health stated web- and community-based programs such as Walk Across Texas! have the potential to address targeted behaviors, such as physical activity, as a positive response to the chronic disease burden. The study also 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.