Seeking Individual Health Through Friendly, Congregational Competition

Participant in Upcoming FitChurch Challenge offered by Lakeland Regional Health Looks Forward Getting Fit with Friends
Anyone who has struggled with weight loss or efforts to stay fit can attest that it is often not easy to follow through with goals. Temptation gets in the way, and staying on track can be difficult— no matter how much desire there may be to get healthier.
At the start of the new year, Lakeland Regional Health will initiate a new program called FitChurch Challenge to help people in the community lose weight and become more fit. The FitChurch Challenge is designed to promote friendly community competition for three months. Accountability will be incorporated with nutrition guidance and support to achieve higher levels of fitness.
“We are very excited to kick off this fun, innovative community health initiative,” says Lauren Springfield, the Lakeland Regional’s manager of community outreach. “We hope to empower individuals, families, and congregations to improve their overall health.”
“Obesity among the youth and adults in our community continues to be a concern, as it increases your chance of developing heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes. The community clearly has a need for such a program,” says Deana Nelson, senior vice-president of administration and chief strategy officer for Lakeland Regional. “We firmly believe in promoting good nutrition and active living.” She says 71.5 percent of Polk County’s residents are overweight or obese.
The 12-week program will kick off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6 of 2018. A weigh-in and group workout will be held at the Lakeland Family YMCA, located at 3620 Cleveland Heights Blvd in Lakeland. Participants will have weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels measured. Confidential screenings of those levels will be conducted every three weeks.
Over the three-month period of the program, Lakeland Regional Health and the YMCA will offer free workouts, information, prizes, and awards provided by Lakeland Regional.
The start of this new program is a great option for Mulberry resident Dawn McDonald, who seeks a way to kick her remaining weight loss goals into gear. McDonald is enthusiastic about participating in the program. She already has a head start— she has shed some 70 pounds in the past year or so.
And she wants to keep going. The mother of six children— five of them grown— says she wants to feel good and live a healthy lifestyle.
McDonald encouraged the pastor and congregation of First Baptist Church of Imperial Lakes to join the Lakeland Regional Health FitChurch Challenge. With the support of the program and its benefits, McDonald hopes to lose another 20 pounds.
A real estate agent, McDonald says the support system aspect of the challenge may help her particularly. “I think having accountability makes all the difference in the world when you are trying to change your lifestyle,” she says. “You are going to have a bad day, but then it’s going to spiral and be another day, and another day, and another day. Pretty soon, it’s been a week or a month since you have exercised. If you know someone is meeting you, or trying to meet the same goals as you, it’s easier.”
McDonald likes that the program links to area churches. “I think reaching out to churches to improve the overall health of our community is an interesting concept,” she explains. “A pastor is a role model and a voice of authority, so if the pastor is encouraging the congregation to take part in this, I think everyone will realize its importance.”
First Baptist Church of Imperial Lakes is one of six local churches already registered for the FitChurch Challenge. McDonald says at least 10 of her fellow congregants have agreed to participate, but she says she hopes to recruit more.
Groups will form to create an atmosphere of good-natured competition, which could pay off in prizes, in addition to the happiness of personal goals being achieved.
The completion of the FitChurch Challenge will take place in March of 2018 with a final health screening event. Prizes will be given to teams with the highest percentage of weight lost, number of participants with optimal blood glucose levels, and number of participants with optimal blood pressure levels.
All individual wellness information will remain confidential. The FitChurch Challenge is non-denominational and open to all. Those interested in the program may register for free at
A three-month, discounted membership is offered for participants to four local YMCAs. Registration ends Wednesday, January 3, 2018.

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