It’s Shape-Up time; this year, bring the kids

Monday, January 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As the guilt from the holiday festivities sinks in, a healthy initiative is set to shift Columbians off their sofa and into a more wholesome way of life.

The Show-Me State Games will begin its third Show-Me Shape Up, a statewide wellness competition that will run next Monday through June 12.

“The wonderful thing about Show-Me Shape Up is that it can be a community project,” said Gretchen Carlisle, Show-Me Shape Up coordinator.

Since the program’s inception in 2003, more than 4,200 participants have lost more than 15,000 pounds and accumulated more than 900,000 miles of physical activity.

Teams range from two to 10 members and can focus on total weight loss, total accumulated physical activity or both.

The weight loss category is measured by tracking the group’s total weight loss over the course of five months, and physical activity is tracked by daily activity in miles.

The cost is $10 per team member, and everyone who completes the program will receive a free Show-Me Shape Up T-shirt.

“I think it’s a great way to encourage people to be more active — some motivation and a little extra push,” said Erika Coffman, director of the Activities and Recreation Center.

“It’s a way to develop some teamwork in a sense that a team encourages others to stay active.”

To help them reach their goals, each team member is sent bi-weekly e-mails with nutrition facts, food recipes and fitness ideas, as well as an Excel spreadsheet to track progress.

According to Carlisle, the program has seen an exceptionally high number of participants this year. She compared the rising figures with the increasing cost of health care. She said several companies were concerned for their employees and signed up for the program as business entities.

Carlisle noted that the Midwestern grocery store chain Hy-Vee is a large supporter and sponsor of this year’s program.

Tom Klucking, store director at the Columbia Hy-Vee, is himself an avid supporter and can attest to the program’s benefits.

“For three years in a row, we have not seen an increase in health-care costs for employees,” Klucking said.

With childhood obesity and inactivity among Missouri’s youth hitting record numbers, Carlisle said the Show-Me State Games wanted to develop a program to help students learn about the importance of fitness. The result: Making the Grade, an initiative aimed at youngsters.

“The biggest single change in this year’s program is that it has expanded to a youth program. Absolutely free for children thanks to some of our generous sponsors,” Carlisle said.

Making the Grade is shorter than the regular program (running from Jan. 9 to May 8) to coincide with the end of the school year.

Teams consist of school groups of 10-40 members, and schools may enter more than one team. The students will be divided into three divisions based on grade.

The team that comes first in each division will win a $500 voucher for the school’s physical education department. Second place winners receive a $300 voucher. A coupon for a pair of New Balance Cross Trainer tennis shoes will be awarded to the individual members of each winning team.

Challenge to Change is a program that complements the youth portion, allowing faculty and Parents as Teachers to participate.

“It’s very motivating for kids to be able to beat adults,” Carlisle said. “It really enables adults to be able to set an example for kids.”

She added that more participation is expected this year because of an increased drive in marketing and advertising for the program as a whole.

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