RGV leads state in exercise challenge

(Maricela Rodriguez | Valley Morning Star)

WESLACO — From good to excellent to phenomenal are the words to illustrate the progression Rio Grande Valley residents have made over three years in the It’s Time Texas Community Challenge.

The challenge runs in conjunction with the statewide Walk with the Mayor events. The program involves a city-versus-city competition to encourage Texas residents to exercise in hopes of reversing some of the state’s high obesity and diabetes rates.

The Valley may be the epicenter of those problems, with some estimates putting half the population, or 45 percent, as obese, with another 40 to 60 percent with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

But this year, nearly half of the IT Texas participants in the entire state are from the Rio Grande Valley.

“The people who have participated in this challenge, from the Valley, in 2017 it was just under 2,000 people, 1,900 people,” said Ron Garza, executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. “In 2018, that was 5,200 people. … In the year 2019, which we’re in our current year, we’ve already had over 11,000 people in the Rio Grande Valley who are actually exercising through wellness activities and logging them as part of the challenge.

“Across the statewide challenge, the Rio Grande Valley participants are almost half — 48 percent overall,” he added. “These are things that we’re not usually known for and it’s been really exciting.”

Garza was addressing the LRGVDC board which met here Thursday. His agency has led the way in the IT Texas challenge, a key part of which is the Walk with the Mayor events.

Last year, 10 Valley mayors signed up to lead the way in community exercise. This year, it’s up to 21, he said.

“We’ve had more mayors commit to the challenge than ever before,” he said. “And more mayors are from the region than any other part of the state.”

The It’s Time Texas Community Challenge is a points-driven contest using workout selfies, healthy meals and weight and fitness trackers, hosted community events and, for schools and businesses, organizing healthy activities and devising ways to make workplaces more healthy as well.

This year’s contest began Jan. 7 and runs through Sunday.

“They gave me the leader board, which is very impressive again for the Rio Grande Valley,” Garza said. “As it currently sits in the large-city category — these are from across the state — first place is the city of McAllen, second place, the city of Brownsville.

“In mid-sized cities, the first-place city is Harlingen, third-place city is Pharr,” he added. “Small city, the first-place city is Los Fresnos, third-place city is San Juan, fifth place city is Port Isabel, and in extra-small, in fourth place, is Laguna Vista.”