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.
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.
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.
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.
Through the application of science-based knowledge, AgriLife Extension creates high-quality, relevant continuing education that encourages lasting and effective change.