Community Fitness Challenges

Looking for the ingredients to host a successful fitness challenge?

Turn community fitness into a challenge. Photo Courtesy City of Warrenville

Combine ease of participation with a little friendly competition, fold in a partnership with a local medical facility, and add a dash of marketing.

For good measure–sprinkle with incentives and a mayor or city manager in sweat pants and a pair of tennis shoes–and voila you have a perfectly prepared program that serves the entire community.

Whether it’s inspiration from “The Biggest Loser” or a plea from local medical centers to encourage physical activity, fitness challenges are gaining in popularity.

And with an obesity epidemic running rampant in the country, Warrenville, Ill., Mayor David Brummel says he is proud to be his community’s “workout” buddy.

“It’s always a challenge to maintain weight and fitness,” Brummel explains. “The idea is just to get as many people as possible up and moving.”

Like others, Brummel started a fitness challenge in his community by encouraging participants to spend a minimum of 150 minutes per week doing some type of physical activity to receive a T-shirt at the end of the eight weeks. He says 261 people signed up.

“Try to find something that fits the identity of the community,” Brummel offers as a tip for involvement. “The majority of these people are not regular exercisers, so make it easy to participate.”

Similar challenges in other communities also invite residents to face off against mayors, city managers, council members, and local “celebrities.”

“To me, it’s all about getting up, working hard, and staying active,” says 63-year-old Dan Snarr, the mayor of Murray, Utah. “I want to inspire residents to do the same.”

Snarr competed against seven other area mayors, two councilmen, one city manager, and one city attorney in a 100-day fitness challenge sponsored by Intermountain Medical Center. The Salt Lake City-based healthcare system offered counseling, weigh-ins, stress tests, and other diagnostics to participants.

In Brunswick, Ohio, the parks and recreation department took the challenge a step further. In addition to partnering with Southwest General Medical Center to offer health screenings, the program also included a lecture series for participants to learn more about nutrition, exercise, and the importance of overall health.

Brunswick Parks and Recreation Director John Piepsny says marketing is a key in creating buzz and getting people interested.

Piepsny says stressing that the program is about overall healthy living is more important to participants than losing weight.

Get everyone involved! Photo Courtesy City of Brunswick

“People are looking for an experience. They don’t want to just lift weights,” he explains. “And they want it to be fun.”

One cautionary detail he shares from the early days when the city offered another rendition of the program is that women do not want to reveal their weight. Therefore, the program transformed from a weight-loss challenge to an overall health-and-wellness competition.

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