A healthier existence motivates a Central Texas community to start walking


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE


Posted on May 3, 2013 at 6:24 PM

Updated Friday, May 3 at 6:41 PM

MARBLE FALLS, Texas -- When's the last time you heard of a community coming together to exercise? Well, it's happening in Marble Falls.

Dr. Elissa Thompson moved to Marble Falls three years ago and immediately saw something troubling.

"I noticed we had a big obesity problem," she said.

Thompson, a clinical cardiologist at Heart Hospital of Austin and with Austin Heart, tried unsuccessfully at first to convince her patients of the benefits of the exercise.

"Everyone has an excuse," said Thompson. "It's too hot. It's too cold. There's not a safe place for me to walk. I'm not motivated. I don't live with anybody. I don't have anybody to walk with, you name it."

Thompson didn't give up, and one day it occurred to her how to close those excuse loopholes and get her patients on the move.

"I like to walk," said Thompson. "I love walking."

So last October Thompson organized the Marble Falls incentive walking program. Now every weekend anywhere from 40 to 90 people show up. Many are Thompson's patients, like 51-year-old breast cancer survivor Bobbett Boyd who has lost four siblings to heart disease.

"So I look forward to waking up on Saturday mornings and going walking," said Boyd.

"The camaraderie with the people here in Marble Falls is great," said Ed Cole, an 82-year-old participant in the walking program. "It's a great time and opportunity to visit with them, but the health aspect (is especially beneficial).

"They can walk a quarter-mile or they can walk four miles," said Thompson. "It doesn't matter. The whole purpose of this is to just have you do a little bit of exercise every day and work up to you own goals."

As for the incentive portion of the program, participants can earn small prizes from area businesses.  Those prizes vary and as 7-year-old Jack Thompson explains, sometimes they're edible.

"Sometimes I go over there and eat some of their snacks," he said.  

Jen Casey makes the snacks Jack's devouring.

Casey's a nutritionist and the owner of the Noon Spoon Café which specializes in healthy, homemade recipes.

"I think a healthy community is a happy community," said Casey.

And it seems Marbles Falls is a happier and healthier community these days thanks to Thompson's incentive walking program.