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Local Spotlight: Shape Up RI

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

SummerLogoBecause 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)

13 Responses to Local Spotlight: Shape Up RI

  1. A group of ladies at work always participate in the Shape Up RI program. I haven’t participated, but they always seem to have lots of fun and usually participate in local 5K walk/runs and such. It seems that the program continues to grow, too – great way to get people to pay attention to their health!
    Becky´s last post ..Rhody Crunch Runner

  2. I think community-based things like this are awesome and I wish they were more prevalent! Hopefully someday soon they will be. There is nothing like this where I live, but we do have a lot of 5Ks and such downtown so that’s at least a step in the right direction :)

  3. This is terrific! People need to motivation from other people. Any time you have a community coming together, ultimately you have a chance to get more support from the troops. With this type of program, other cities should adapt. It’d be great to take this concept corporate. I am all for the greater good and getting people moving!
    Nichole´s last post ..Weekend Trails

  4. i love community programs!! its like everyone knows that Joe down the street and Selma on the 5th floor are doing it too lol so its that sense of having a safety net under you. and if its a communal thing, u know going to a bakery aint gonna fair well since the ppl there would give u the ‘stink-eye’ if u tried to buy a donut lol :P


  5. Sounds like a great program! Accountability is so key for behavior change. And I love how the competition let’s you choose the goal you’d like to work for b/c only measuring weight loss isn’t enough in my opinion.

    I <3 community-based programs and wish more organizations participated in them.
    Jen´s last post ..Try to Qualify for the Boston Marathon Training Plan

  6. What’s funny is that prior to this year, I have always, always been a believer in independent exercise. I think it’s because I’d force myself to run every single day and would get antsy if I didn’t. My running time was my ME time and my obsession with ME TIME was more than enough motivation to get me moving–actually, it’s not accurate to call it motivation, more like forceful moving–but now things are so different! Since being able to let go of my weird habits, I’ve really come to appreciate group fitness. It’s SO true that having a group of people helps to keep your fitness goals on track, even on days when you’re down in a slump. It’s kind of like the same principle as the sisters house that I was talking about! (Hehehe) Working together and helping one another to reach the goal! Life is really all about teamwork–physically, mentally, and spiritually. :-)

    xo Aletheia
    aletheia´s last post ..Choosing Change Giveaway Update-

  7. I love that there are other goals than just “pounds lost.” I do love the Biggest Loser’s pound for pound challenge, but it isn’t always just about the pounds! Steps taken and hours exercised is a great way to encourage people to move without all the emphasis and pressure on weight.

    • I agree. I think that encouraging people to lose weight the healthy way is much more important than the overall number of pounds lost. And this program definitely does put a lot of emphasis on getting out and moving (and now eating well), so that when/if you do lose weight, it’s the product of that. Plus, they use percentage of weight loss in the rankings, so it’s not really about who loses the most total pounds — which I think it a really good thing.

  8. i like that there are categories–to be frank, i wish that weight loss wasn’t one of them, and that it was completely behavior focused, but it looks like a solid program :) i am especially happy to see qualified folks setting it up–i am of the camp, the more opportunities for people to find what will work for them the better but do get frustrated when unqualified folks set up the programs. ok, enough negative nellying.

    are you involved in a way other than as a participant?
    andi @ livelaughbefit´s last post ..shot through the heart- and you’re to blame

    • Yes, I do think it’s really important to have these programs set up by experts…especially when they’re as far-reaching (relatively speaking) as this one is.

      I don’t have a problem with weight-loss being one of the categories since you can opt out, it works as a percentage and not total pounds, and the emphasis is more on getting active (and they provide many sponsored activities to help with this) and pursuing a healthy lifestyle than dropping pounds. Also, it’s more about the team-building and supportive environment than it is about competing to win some fabulous prize (Biggest Loser style)

      And no I’m not involved or associated with the organization in any way…though I did run a half marathon they sponsored last month. I guess I should say that the director of the organization did approach me to ask if I would mind writing something up about them. I agreed to do it only because I truly do support their mission and believe that we need more community programs like this. I’m not getting paid or getting any sort of benefit from writing this, but I did think it would be a good idea to highlight a local organization that was trying to make a difference.

  9. This is so cool! I wonder if DC has anything like this… Masters thesis potential? I am such a nerd…
    Alex @ IEatAsphalt´s last post ..Want a migrant worker’s job

  10. I’ve heard of this program! They have one in our community (back at school). I think the concept is awesome- supporting each other, working together for an extremely beneficial goal. The only drawback I see is the whole weight thing…ya know, weight is just a number. It doesn’t represent true health (or even body fat)!

    But overall, I love the idea!
    Danielle (Runs on Green)´s last post ..Stage 4 is a hazard

  11. I think these types of programs are very important and extremely motivating for our communities. I am not sure if my local area has such a program but my employer has initiated a Step Challenge for 8 week this summer which I am currently participating in. It is all for health, fun and prizes.

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