Culpeper raises the bar as the winner of FitX Program


Culpeper County employees finished first in the state in the FitXProgram with 91 participants. Photo by Leonard Banks

Culpeper County employees took the lead in the state in the fight against obesity and diabetes.

On April 7, 91 Culpeper County employees, embarked on journey to accomplish a mission that would raise the bar on improving their health. Less than eight weeks later, the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Culpeper County employee sponsored program unveiled the 91 Culpeper employees as its first ever FItX  winners. Out of 15 teams, and 275 competitors from across the state of Virginia, Culpeper was honored at the top team.

“The purpose of the program is to get people up and moving and eating healthy. Also, the event hopes to encourage weight loss by eating healthier by making people move,” Culpeper Extension Office agent Becky Sheffield said.

Culpeper finished first with 8,205,243 total steps and 1,367,540 steps per person.

Periodically, Sheffield announced which team was ahead by sending out a weekly newsletter. As an added bonus, each member of the winning team received $100 dollars.

On Friday, members of the winning team, Virginia Cooperative Extension members,  along with its creator, and PHD Virginia Tech student, Andre Eskia gathered at the Culpeper Board of Supervisors auditorium to celebrate their accomplishment.

Eskia developed the program as his senior project before graduating in 2018. The program is designed to improve the overall health of its participants by increasing their activity, and the number of vegetables and fruits eaten each week. The core team values are fixed upon teams of 4 to 8 people pooling their mileage to walk across Virginia with their co-workers, family and friends.

Miles or physical activity are calculated based on the type/duration of activity.

Along with physical activity, participants were able to track their consumption of fruits and vegetables using an improvised smart watch programed by Eskia. The consumption of five or more cups of fruits and vegetables each day leading up to 35 cups each week was a high standard for each team, but the Culpeper team persevered and made it through.

“The Smartwatch recently became a mainstream, and then I realized that the watch gives you instant access to information,” Eskia said. “I was curious if this can be used to make people more engaged without burdening them to interact with technology — such as opening something or closing something up.”

Eskia initially partnered with the Human Nutrition Food & Exercise Department at Virginia Tech, as focus for his masters program. It took Eskia and small group of undergraduates over a year and a half to build the FitX program.

“We used the programmable smart watch Pebble, but now I have to consider using a different platform, because the watch is no longer available due to bankruptcy,” Eskia said.