Inactivity and being overweight are consistently linked with increased incidence of chronic disease and even death, yet half of American adults are not active enough to receive health benefits.

Among children and adolescents, the statistics are not much better: In 2001, only about half of young people between the ages of 12 and 21 reported regular vigorous physical activity, while 25 percent reported none at all.

To encourage adults and children to increase their levels of regular physical activity, Texas Cooperative Extension created Walk Across Texas, an eight-week behavior-change program focusing on walking.

About 500 Ellis County residents have been participating in Walk Across Texas for the past six weeks, logging more than 70,000 miles. The grand finale for Walk Across Texas will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, May 21, at the Fine Arts Center at Waxahachie High School. At this time, awards will be presented for the team that logged the most miles during the eight-week period, for the individual that walked the most, and all participating will receive a certificate of completion. Door prizes will be given.

Regular physical activity significantly improves health and lowers the risk for chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. Other benefits include weight control; increased strength of muscles, joints, and bones; reduced falls among older adults; less arthritis pain; and reduced anxiety, stress, and depression.

Walk Across Texas targeted families, schools, worksites, neighborhoods, churches and clubs with a friendly competition that helps participants to make long-term changes in their behavior. Teams of eight members (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors) were formed and the team members walked on a daily basis. Team members provided each other with support and encouragement during the eight weeks of the program. The teams are competing to see which team can walk the 820 miles "across Texas" first.

Plan to join in the fun and improve your health as well.

For further information, contact the county Extension Service office, 701 S. Interstate 35 E, Suite 3, Waxahachie, call (972) 825-5175 or e-mail rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.

Rita M. Hodges is the county extension agent for family and consumer sciences.