The Berkshire Mayor's Fitness Challenge may have wrapped up at the end of July, but the quest to help county residents look and feel better and be healthier continues, say the program's coordinators.
"We were very happy with participation this year," said Morgan Ovitsky, project coordinator for the Be Well Berkshires initiative, a leading partner in the Mayor's Fitness Challenge.
Nearly a thousand residents of all ages took part in the 10-week program, now in its third year for North Adams, and second year in Pittsfield.
A survey of North Adams participants is currently being conducted to collect feedback to help plan for future events (surveymonkey.com/r/23PT5TV).
In addition to increasing the number of participants across the Berkshires' two cities, Ovitsky said the number of local community partners also increased, and included fitness instructors and centers, health and wellness practitioners, restaurants, businesses and community agencies.
"The number of work sites that put teams together also increased, meaning more work sites are taking health and wellness seriously and making it a priority," said Amanda Chilson, project coordinator for the Mass in Motion grant-funded program of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. The grant helps fund the Fitness Challenge, which includes prizes, special events and health and nutrition information for participants.
The program inspires friendly competition, not only between the two cities, but also among individuals and teams within each city. This year it also inspired a new Tri-Town Fitness Challenge, which involves the Tri-Town Health Department's communities of Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge. That 12-week program launched on June 3, and wraps up with the Sept. 18 Josh Billings RunAground.
New this year to the challenge programs is an online tracking system for points, which are gained in different increments for various activities. Single points are awarded for every serving of fruit, every serving of vegetables, and every serving of water consumed; two points can be earned for every 30 minutes of exercise and physical activity; and three points can be earned for activities like visiting the farmer's market, walking marked downtown loops and trying new fruits, vegetables or activities.
"People get really excited about competition aspect," said Ovitsky. "And there's a way to get points no matter what your habits are, whether your focus is exercise versus eating well, so it meets people where they're at."
In North Adams, Chilson said, the top individual point earner was Enid Shields, with 3,806 points. The city's top team was "Racing Junk." Composed of Denise Meranti, Giselle Gwozdz, Christopher Cote, Gina Tatro, Ian Downey, John Carrier, Casey Storbeck, Kevin Shaker, Laura Kellar and Audrey Matys, members racked up an average of 1,808 points.
Pittsfield had various category winners, according to Ovitsky. Lawrence Carroll was the highest scoring individual. Sara Adams was the highest scoring senior, while Walter Monterosso scored the most points in the teen category. Theresa and Walter Monterosso also came out as the top scoring duo. Jeff Turner had the highest overall score, and the "PCTV FYI Crew" won as the highest scoring team.
This was the inaugural Fitness Challenge year for Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, who congratulated the winners from both cities and said she "truly enjoyed participating" in the program.
"The challenge was a perfect tie-in for my everyday activities, so I plan to continue walking this path," Tyer added. "It was great to see how this friendly competition energized our community to strive toward healthy lifestyles. It's my hope that this energy and passion will continue to inspire everyone to continue on a journey to be their best selves."
Ovitsky and Chilson said they hope more community members make the personal pledge to live healthier lifestyles by eating well and staying active all year round.
To help keep people motivated, the main website offers several resources for fitness and healthy eating, and both cities' Fitness Challenge Facebook pages are continuing to offer healthy tips, share events and class information.
Ovitsky said the Be Well Berkshires planning committee is also entertaining the idea of organizing a "winter refresher challenge," a four- to five-week mini-challenge "to remind people of all of their healthy habits, especially around the holidays when it's harder to do."
To help stay healthy and keep fit, visit these Mayor's Fitness Challenge webpages: