Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry Challenges Governors to Participate in 'Capitol Steps'

Wednesday, December 10, 2008  •  Press Release

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry has challenged governors from 49 other states to participate in the “Capitol Steps Challenge,” a two-week contest intended to lead the charge to combat obesity in America.

“Across our nation, obesity rates are growing at an alarming rate, and the cost of treating obesity related diseases and lost productivity amounts to an estimated $122.9 billion a year,” Gov. Perry said. “As governors, we must set the example for our states and highlight ways we can address preventable health problems.”

For this challenge, Virgin HealthMiles, a company that focuses on encouraging active lifestyles, has agreed to assist by providing high-tech pedometers to each of the governors and their team members. Participants will be able to upload their fitness results to a secure HealthMiles website and track their progress. At the conclusion, Virgin HealthMiles will declare the Most Active Governor’s Team in the nation, based on average per person activity.

“The fact of the matter is that everyone who participates is a winner because they are setting the pace for healthy lifestyles,” the governor added.

“While we know the path to success is through hard work and determination, sometimes an incentive waiting at the finish line helps us to persevere,” Gov. Perry said. “Virgin HealthMiles’s program is unlike any other I’ve seen, and it is producing impressive results toward keeping people motivated to stay active and lose weight.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that more than 60 percent of all American adults are either overweight or obese, with the cost of treating obesity related diseases and lost productivity at an estimated $122.9 billion per year. In Texas, the adult obesity rate is 27 percent, well above the 24.2 percent national average. Obesity cost Texas businesses an estimated $3.3 billion in 2005, and without efforts to combat it, the cost is expected to grow to $15.8 billion annually by 2025.

The Capitol Steps Challenge will begin on Jan. 1, 2009, and last for two weeks. Each governor is encouraged to create a team of 10 to 20 cabinet-level staff to participate in the challenge. Virgin HealthMiles will provide pedometers to each team member, and participants can upload their activities and results on a web based program. The winning state team will be declared the Most Active Governor’s Team in the nation at the Capitol Steps Challenge Awards event Feb. 21, 2009, in Washington D.C. They will also be presented with a $50,000 donation to their state’s childhood obesity program by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin HealthMiles. 

“It’s an honor for Virgin HealthMiles to work with Gov. Perry to bring awareness to the important issue of improving the health and wellness of citizens across the country,” said Sean Forbes, President of Virgin HealthMiles. “Having governors join together and lead by example about the value of increased physical activity is an extremely positive message for all of us concerned with fighting obesity. We’re excited to be part of the Capitol Steps Challenge and look forward to providing a fun and engaging experience.”

Gov. Perry’s team, “Team Texas”, includes Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Secretary of State Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, Texas Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commissioners Bryan Shaw, Larry Soward and Buddy Garcia, Public Utility commissioners Kenneth Anderson, Donna Nelson and Barry Smitherman, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston, Texas Department of Public Safety Executive Director Stan Clark, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Texas Youth Commission Executive Director Cherie Townsend, Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz Jr., Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins, Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith and Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin.

To date, states who have committed to the challenge include Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

Virgin HealthMiles provides a unique, incentive-based fitness program that offers cash rewards of up to $500 annually to members who meet their fitness goals. Currently, about 50,000 Texans are enrolled in the program; last year, those Texans lost about 250,000 pounds. (For the purposes of the Capitol Steps challenge the incentives do not apply.)

For more information on the challenge please visit http://www.virginhealthmiles.com/capitolstepschallenge.


AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry has challenged governors from 49 other states to participate in the “Capitol Steps Challenge,” a two-week contest intended to lead the charge to combat obesity in America. Also speaking in this video are Albert Hawkins (Executive Commissioner, Texas Health and Human Services) and Sean Forbes (President, Virgin Healthmiles).


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