Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Angie Gutierrez, 210-631-0400, email@example.com
SAN ANTONIO – More than 130 Bexar County employees comprising over 32 teams recently began their Walk Across Texas health and wellness activity presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in collaboration with various county agencies and offices.
“Walk Across Texas is a statewide health and wellness initiative of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service,” said Nelda Lebya Speller, director for the agency’s Bexar County office located in San Antonio. “The Walk Across Texas initiative in Bexar County is also one of the largest activities AgriLife Extension conducts in collaboration with the county. This year, we took the first steps outside the Bexar County Courthouse.”
In 2017, more than 47,750 youth and adults representing 155 Texas counties participated in Walk Across Texas statewide. Participants collectively logged more than 4.8 million miles, which when avoidance of lost wages is included, yielded an estimated lifetime economic benefit of $186 million for the participants and their places of employment, according to AgriLife Extension data.
Speller said Walk Across Texas is an eight-week health and wellness activity in which team participants commit to walk a distance equivalent to the length from the state’s farthest point west to its farthest point east – about 832 miles.
“We collaborate with the county to support and complement their employee health and wellness objectives through worksite wellness programs such as Walk Across Texas,” Speller said.
During the kick-off event, teams of five to eight individuals gathered around the courthouse plaza to hear from speakers and walk the streets surrounding the courthouse area. The teams will continue walking at times and locations determined by their team leader until they reach or exceed their goal.
Participating teams included Red Hot Chili Steppers, Holy Walkamolies, More Money More Problems and Chicks with Kicks.
“Participants walk wherever they feel safe and comfortable,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent for Bexar County. “We encourage team participation with team captains to help motivate team members and help them meet their goal.”
Gutierrez said AgriLife Extension personnel will also provide health and nutrition information to Walk Across Texas participants and check on team progress at the halfway point.
“At the end of the program, we hold a recognition celebration where we distribute medals and participation certificates, plus recognize top-performing teams and individuals,” she said.
Gutierrez said Texas ranks as the ninth most physically inactive state, with about one-third of Texans being obese and more than one-fourth of the state’s adults reporting they get no leisure-time physical activity.
“These included individuals and teams from businesses, schools, residential communities, health care facilities and elsewhere,” Gutierrez said.
Isabel Pruneda, AgriLife Extension leadership advisory board president, was a participant and speaker at the kickoff.
“The mission of AgriLife Extension is to improve the quality of life for Texans and that includes helping them achieve better health,” Pruneda said. “Walking is one of the easiest and healthiest activities people can participate in, and getting regular exercise helps cut down on the risk of stroke, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. And working as a team also helps develop leadership and camaraderie and provides an opportunity for positive competition.”
Angel Flores, Bexar County wellness coordinator, was another of the event coordinators and speakers.
“We’re glad we had this opportunity to provide county employees another avenue to live healthier lives and to be more active,” he said.
Thomas Guevara, chief of staff for the county manager’s office, was one of the event’s coordinators and speakers. He also assembled the More Money More Problems team for the event. Guevara, AgriLife personnel and a representative from Aetna were the first to meet and discuss implementing the Walk Across Texas event for Bexar County employees.
Guevara, who lost 30 pounds last year by adhering to county health and wellness programs, said AgriLife Extension and the County Wellness Program have the shared goals of helping people feel better about themselves, improving their health and providing useful and practical information on nutrition.
“We look at providing opportunities for better health and wellness as being another employee benefit,” Guevara said. “There is a need and a demand for programs like these. The (Bexar County) Commissioners Court has already seen the positive results from these programs and has been very supportive of them.”
Guevara also noted the economic benefits of wellness programs in helping reduce medical costs and the loss of productivity associated with absenteeism due to illness.
“These activities are a win-win for both county employees and the county,” he said.