A winning formula for physical activity
A fitness team from Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy won the Walk Across Texas! 2018 grand championship trophy for Kleberg-Kenedy County. The winners included Ellen Demps, PhD, Rachel Garza, Narendra Kumar, PhD, Jayshree Mishra, PhD, Pooja Patel, PharmD, Victoria Pho, PharmD, Gilbert Reyna, and Greg Sawyer, PhD. Competing against 32 other South Texas teams, this group walked a combined 3,295 miles in eight weeks.
Mishra, a research assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, served as team captain. Upon noticing people signing up at the Texas A&M University—Kingsville campus for this competition, she decided to form an interdisciplinary team with faculty from both the Departments of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences, staff and administrators. The idea was to build a collaborative team outside the office environment.
“We named ourselves Crazy Walkers, because we were passionate about it. Being in a health profession college, we thought what would be a better way to advocate for a healthy lifestyle in our community than first experiencing and demonstrating it ourselves,” Mishra said. “As the weeks went by, we became very close, talking about something different from our research and teaching. We built a network, in addition to our goal of developing and promoting a healthy lifestyle for our College of Pharmacy and Aggie community.”
Whereas the goal was to walk 830 miles—the width of Texas—this team walked more miles than the width of continental United States. Mixing commitment with thorough execution, as some members walked 90 miles per week at times, this team created the right formula to win. Mishra tracked the team’s progress—not always an easy task with two members living in Houston and the rest in the Kingsville area. All teammates documented the miles they walked and other activities that converted to mileage for input into the Walk across Texas! database.
“Every week, we plugged in our numbers and noticed that we were being ranked number one in a competition that had more than 200 participants,” Mishra said. “We motivated each other and felt great about our weekly achievements. During the course, many of us also participated in 5K and 10K runs, and one teammate used to repeatedly climb an 11-story building. We also took advantage of Texas A&M’s wellness breaks; many of us were doing repeated workouts a day, some even three times daily.”
The team began their trek from March 19 through May 11, and they received the award on May 16. Walk Across Texas!, designed to habituate Texans to regular physical activity, has had thousands participate since 1996 when it began. The educational program is by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Implemented annually at more than 100 Texas counties, the mission is to mitigate risks such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and cancer. This program part of Healthy South Texas, an initiative that combines the expertise of Texas A&M University Health Science Center with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s statewide reach to promote preventative health at the grassroots level, thereby improving health for Texans.
The Crazy Walkers decided to place their trophy inside the dean’s suite, so that everyone visiting can see it and be inspired to establish physical activity as a lifetime habit. In addition to the trophy, they received eight fully-packed gym bags, one free personal training session for each member, and a Fitbit Alta for Garza, who was the top female walker. Kumar was recognized by the team for contributing the highest overall miles.
“Everyone should join this; it’s fun, flexible, and a motivational fitness program,” Mishra said. “My teammates are now telling me that after walking so much for eight weeks, it’s very difficult for them to quit this lifestyle. When you exercise regularly, you feel more energetic to tackle your responsibilities. Ultimately, we are creating a healthy workforce, which reduces absenteeism due to illnesses, reducing job stress and employee turnover to a great extent. We want to tell our story to encourage health and wellness in our COP and Aggie community and boost more participation next year.”