Local Spotlight: Shape Up RI
|June 28, 2010||Posted by Lauren under Fitness, Health News|
We live in a society that values long workdays, a thousand and one commitments, and being as busy as humanly possible. When life gets stressful because every waking minute is packed with obligations, eating healthy and getting enough exercise are among the first things to go out the window.
It’s not a stretch to say that after a long day of work, you may not think you have the time — or energy – to exercise. But would that change if you had team members who were not only counting on you to get out there, but were encouraging you along, every step of the way?
Let’s face it, sometimes we need a little motivation to get moving – an extra incentive that encourages us to get out that door and start walking (or running). Being a member of a team can provide that. It can encourage you to try things you wouldn’t normally do, and to work harder, knowing there are people you don’t want to let down. Unfortunately, many adults don’t belong to any sort of team outside of the one they do work with. So what’s a person to do? Well…you could join up with a bunch of crazy friends to spend your entire weekend running, or you could do something simpler – and join a friendly competition.
This is the premise behind Shape Up RI, a local nonprofit started 5 years ago by Brown Medical Student Rajiv Kumar. The founder believes that we can use the power of team work and peer support to start pursuing healthier lives.
The concept behind the campaign is simple – you team up with 5 – 11 friends, family, or coworkers (most teams I know are through worksites) for a statewide competition. For the 12-week spring challenge, you can choose to compete in one (or all) of the following categories: steps walked (measured by the digital pedometers provided by the program), hours exercised, and/or weight loss. You then report your values in an online tracker every week, and Shape Up tracks the team standings. While a huge part of the program is the encouragement and competition it generates that can motivate you to be active, they do offer prizes to participants along the way, and honor the winners at the end.
I’ve participated in the spring challenge with a group of coworkers in the past, choosing to compete in the steps walked and hours exercised divisions. Besides the camaraderie it creates among team members, it was also fun to track where I stacked up with other participants throughout the course of the challenge.
Now… I realize that I’m not exactly the program’s target audience. But I think it’s important to show support to those organizations whose mission you believe it. And with less than half of all Rhode Islanders (and only 3 in 10 adults across the United States) getting the recommended levels of physical activity, I think more organizations should follow this example to encourage Americans to be more active – in whatever way they can. Last year alone, Shape Up RI helped over 13,000 people lose 45,106 (point 7!) pounds, exercise 375,780 hours, and walk over 6.1 million steps! (And we’re a small state – so 13,000 is a lot! :))
Summer Shape Up RI
Because I truly believe in the mission of this organization, I was excited to find out that it is now in it’s second year of hosting a summer challenge: The Summer Shape Up RI (not to be confused with the little shape up summer challenge I’m having through the blog – speaking of which, have you tried The Core yet??)
There are 3 divisions in the Summer Shape Up RI challenge: weight loss, fruit and vegetable tracking, and pedometer steps. Just like their spring challenge, you can choose which categories you would like to compete in and Shape Up will give you the tools you need to succeed. Over the course of the 8-week challenge, you are provided with a pedometer, online fruit and vegetable, weight loss, and step trackers, health information and other educational resources, and access to many free community events happening all over the state – like group walks, yoga, rock climbing, and nutrition seminars. Finally, you can also choose to participate in 2-week bonus challenges that help you focus on calories and nutrition, stretching, sleep tracking, and/or stress reduction.
The competition is only open to people who live and work in Rhode Island (sorry to all of you out-of-staters!). It kicked off last Monday the 21st and will run through mid-August.
I realize that many of you reading this are unable to participate in the challenge. But my point in writing about this organization is to highlight an example of a community-based effort that aims to help individuals become more active and lead healthier lives. Five years ago, a medical student had an idea to help change the habits of Rhode Islanders, and to do something to reverse the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our entire nation. In that short time, he has already helped 40,000 people across the state, and the numbers grow larger every year. I think what he has done should serve as an inspiration – individuals can make a change. And if we all work together, we can make huge strides toward a healthier world.
What do you think of these types of community-based exercise and weight loss programs? Is there anything like this where you live?
(Pictures courtesy of shapeupri.org)