Walk Across Texas participants learn about additional health, wellness offerings at midway event

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Nelda Lebya Speller, 210-631-0400, nlspeller@ag.tamu.edu

Angie Gutierrez, 210-631-0400, aogutierrez@ag.tamu.edu

SAN ANTONIO – Eighty-two Bexar County employees learned about a variety of free health and nutrition resources available to them at an event celebrating the midway point of the Walk Across Texas program.

The eight-week Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service health and wellness activity invites team participants to walk a distance equivalent to the length from the state’s farthest point west to its farthest point east – about 832 miles.

The walk’s midway event was held on the third floor of the Paul Elizondo Tower of the Bexar County Courthouse complex.

The Walk Across Texas event began four weeks ago in the courtyard of the Bexar County Courthouse complex. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“The Walk Across Texas initiative in Bexar County is also one of the largest activities AgriLife Extension conducts in collaboration with the county,” said Nelda Lebya Speller, director for the agency’s Bexar County office. “This year’s Walk Across Texas effort for Bexar County began four weeks ago in the courtyard of the courthouse complex. In Bexar County, there are 199 people on 34 teams participating in the walk.”

Speller said AgriLife Extension has three teams participating in Walk Across Texas this year.

“The importance of having a midway event is to help participants celebrate the fact they have made it to the midway point and to encourage them as they continue on their journey of walking across Texas,” she said.

Midway events also provide an opportunity to introduce participants and other county employees to the variety of free health and wellness resources available to them, said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension agent for family and community health, Bexar County.

“At these events, we collaborate with Bexar County agencies and others with similar health and wellness goals as AgriLife Extension,” Gutierrez said. “This year we are collaborating with the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation, Vision Zero, American Heart Association and SWell Cycles.”

Erika Alaman (center) pours samples of her nutritious Green Monster smoothie for event attendees. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

For the event, AgriLife Extension provided nutrition information and set up two tables where attendees could sample healthy, easy-to-make recipes suited for summer. Erika Alaman, AgriLife Extension health and wellness coordinator, prepared samples of a Green Monster smoothie made with spinach, low-fat vanilla yogurt, banana and pineapple chunks. Mary Masterson, AgriLife Extension assistant for the Better Living for Texans program, made a “cowboy salad” of black beans, corn, tomato and jalapeno served on whole-grain tortilla chips.

Gutierrez said the idea behind both AgriLife Extension recipes was to show attendees how easy it can be to make healthy, nutritious and flavorful snacks at home using a small number of easy-to-find ingredients.

Walk Across Texas midway event participants and other Bexar County employees learned about free health and wellness resources and activities available to them. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Arisa Larios, registered dietitian with Metro Health, was one of those providing event attendees with information about that agency’s health and wellness efforts.

“I’m telling attendees about our Viva Health initiative that focuses on showing people the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated,” she said. “And we’re also telling people about our Por Vida program that focuses on healthy dining by identifying restaurants in Bexar County that have healthy menu options.”

Larios said so far there are 134 locations in Bexar County participating in the Por Vida program.

Megan Moore, community center leader with City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation, provided information about outdoor recreational facilities and free fitness classes. She also told attendees about Mobile Fit San Antonio, a “traveling wellness vehicle” that offers free health screenings and fitness classes throughout the city.

AgriLife Extension’s Angie Gutierrez has her blood pressure checked. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Representatives of the American Heart Association gave free blood pressure testing and offered information on how to manage blood pressure through diet and exercise, and a representative for the city’s Vision Zero initiative told attendees about that initiative, which focuses on driver, bicycle and pedestrian safety with the goal of zero fatalities on the city’s roadways.

Melissa Oliva of the Bexar County District Attorney’s office was one of the event attendees.

“This event was very educational,” Oliva said. “I learned a lot about how to manage my blood pressure by eating better and by finding ways to lower my stress level through exercise. I also saw how important it is that people take time to focus on their own health and make the effort to take care of themselves.”

Angel Flores, Bexar County health and wellness coordinator, said Walk Across Texas teams are excited to be participating in the activity and some have already made it well past halfway to their goal.

“Right now, the team with the most miles at the midway point has 694 miles and the second- and third-place teams have 654 and 619 miles, respectively,” he said. “And it looks like all 34 teams will be able to put in at least 832 miles.”

He said county employees meet in the mornings or during lunch to walk their respective routes and also use the treadmills at the county’s fitness center to complete their miles. Flores also noted upcoming free health and wellness activities for county employees will include a yoga class June 21 in the courtyard of the Bexar County Courthouse complex.

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, providing an economic benefit of $186 million to them and their employers in productivity, lower absenteeism and health care savings.

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