Wellness on Wheels

A close up shot of the gears and bottom of a fluorescent green bike parked in a parking lot.

Extension program gets Winston Countians on the move

A man wearing a fluorescent green shirt stands holding the handlbars of a black and red bike on the side of a road.
Scott Stokes is prepared to bike for the Wellness on
Wheels program.

Story by Nathan Gregory • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Start small, but start today.

That’s what Scott Stokes was thinking last year when he brought out his bicycle after a 12-year hiatus and started riding again. A new Mississippi State University Extension Service program encouraged him to get back on track.

Stokes says most of his work days as an industrial equipment engineer are spent in front of a computer, and he was getting little physical activity away from the office.

“My wife and I were looking at shore excursions for our vacation last summer, and I was over the weight limit for some of the activities,” he says. “It was a sobering wake-up call.”

Growing up in Winston County, Stokes would see cyclists as they made their way through Noxapater on the way to the Neshoba County Fairgrounds during the Heart of Dixie Triathlon. In 2003, he watched the riders come through and resolved to participate the next year.

“I didn’t set any course records, but I found a lot of success in just completing the task,” he recalls. “Over the next few years, my riding began to taper off. My wife and I had a new baby and a toddler to chase around. By 2006, I had stopped riding completely.”

Walking for several months helped him make progress toward his weight-loss goal before he saw a flyer for a new cycling group in his hometown of Louisville: Winston 100 Wellness on Wheels. After finding out more, he showed up for the first meeting.

Mississippians from Winston County are getting fit by participating in a Mississippi State University Extension Service cycling program, Winston 100 Wellness on Wheels.

MSU Extension agent Jim McAdory launched Winston 100 and developed the curriculum for the wellness program with Extension health specialist David Buys.

Over 5 weeks, participants rode their bikes 10 miles, as a group, near the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge with McAdory and Extension agent Tracy Gregory once a week. They were then asked to ride 10 additional miles a week on their own. Before each ride, they received recipes and health information to use as they progressed through the program.

“Typically, if we can get people to do something for 5 weeks, they start a good habit and are more likely to keep doing it,” McAdory said. “We planned out different routes near the refuge that we rode each week to keep things interesting.”

The dozen riders weighed themselves and checked their blood pressure before and after completing the 5-week regimen, and each one lost weight. Stokes began the program at 275 pounds. He lost 14 pounds during the program and another 5 afterward.

“Every Monday, I knew we were going to ride, and every Monday, I knew Jim was going to ask if we had made our mileage for the week. We were at different skill levels and had different goals but had a common desire to improve ourselves using a bicycle as the medium.”

Scott Stokes

He now averages 30 miles a week on wheels.

“The most important thing the Winston 100 has done for me is reopen the door to cycling and remind me of how enjoyable exercising as a group can be,” Stokes says. “When I walk, I come home tired. When I ride with the group, I come home tired and happy. We inspire each other, and we hold each other accountable.”

McAdory has plans to continue and expand Winston 100 to two 5-week sessions a year.

“Everybody in the group wants to keep going and pull in others who might want to join,” he says. “They also want the program to include measurements with the weigh-ins and blood pressure check-ups. Some of them felt like they were putting on some muscle.”

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