Baton Rouge --- What do you do when your state consistently exceeds the national average in rates of obesity, 85 percent of adults get less than the recommended amount of weekly exercise and the same percentage do not consume the necessary amounts of fruits and vegetables? You join a team and start a statewide competition.

That’s the idea behind Lighten Up Louisiana, a five-month healthy lifestyle competition that kicks off Aug. 30. The program is a joint initiative between the Department of Health Office of Public Health and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has pledged her support to the Lighten Up Louisiana program, and even plans to join in the competition with a team of her own. LDH representatives, in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, are planning a press conference in August to officially kick off the program.

So, how do you sign up? Teams of two to 10 people comprised of friends, family or co-workers can join the competition, which promotes healthy eating and exercise habits. For the exercise portion, participants can wear pedometers to log the number of activity miles they earn, both by walking and running.  Participants also can convert minutes to miles for a variety of other activities, ranging from golfing to gardening. The team that logs the most collective activity miles wins the fitness competition.

The winner of the healthy weight loss competition will be the team that loses the highest percentage of weight between Aug. 30 and Jan. 31, the five months of the program.  Team weights will be reported at the starting point, on Nov. 15, midway through the competition, and again at the end.  Team members will receive tips on healthy lifestyles and good food choices for the duration of the competition. They also will be asked to chart how many fruits and vegetables they eat, to encourage them to meet the recommended five servings a day.

“We are very excited about this program,” said Rudy Macklin, director of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness Sports. “Diet and weight loss are hard to do on your own, but when you can work with a team to achieve your health and fitness goals, it’s much easier to find success on the scale.”

Captains can register their teams by logging onto http://www.lightenuplouisiana.org/ or mailing a completed registration form to Office of Public Health, Lighten Up Louisiana, 325 Loyola Ave., Room 315, New Orleans, La. 70112. REGISTRATION AND PARTICIPATION ARE FREE. The top 10 teams that finish the competition will be honored with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion after the program has ended.

“I want to encourage all our citizens to join this program,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “Even if you do not need to lose weight, this is a great chance to increase your activity level and learn more about healthy food choices. Let’s all be part of this effort to lighten up our state!”

Lighten Up Louisiana is modeled after a similar program, Lighten Up Iowa, which is run through Iowa State University and the Iowa State Games. For more information on the Lighten Up Louisiana Program, please visithttp://www.lightenuplouisiana.org/ or call toll free 1-800-352-6491.

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