BATON ROUGE—Just in time for the new school year, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is introducing a fun, easy-to-do health challenge that empowers Louisiana families to own their own health and enjoy the benefits of exercising, eating healthy foods and overall living well.
The Department, through the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, is launching Living Well in Louisiana, a three-month wellness challenge in which participants earn points for physical activity and healthy eating, compete on teams or individually and track their progress at www.livingwellinlouisiana.org.
Louisiana is the fifth-most overweight state in the country and has the fourth-highest rate of childhood obesity, according to the 2011 "F is for Fat" report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Being overweight and out of shape leads to many chronic diseases, and also causes decreased quality of life.
Living Well in Louisiana is designed to help people combat obesity and its related chronic illnesses by taking small but effective steps to eat right and exercise daily.
"We each have a daily responsibility to own our own health and take good care of ourselves so we can feel better and prevent serious illnesses. The Living Well in Louisiana challenge provides families with a positive, rewarding and interactive way to do just that," said DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "Obesity is a serious challenge in our state, and the solutions really begin at home. I'm looking forward to signing up with my own kids, so we can compete on being more active, eating well and improving our overall health. Even if you don't need to lose weight, this challenge is a great way to learn the steps you can take to live longer and be healthier."
The three-month challenge officially begins Aug. 20, but people across the state should sign up now at www.livingwellinlouisiana.org. There is no cost to participate. The first 1,000 participants will receive a pedometer to help them track their progress. Each week, participants will have the chance to win fitness prizes as they complete their wellness milestones. As in past competitions, Living Well in Louisiana will offer fitness-focused prizes like pedometers, towels, water bottles and more to motivate participants. All prizes are provided through wellness grant funding and sponsorships.
The Living Well in Louisiana website is a complete online wellness center that features healthy living tips, video clips from doctors, dieticians, athletes and other health experts, a worksite wellness resource guide and much more. In addition to diet and exercise guidance, www.livingwellinlouisiana.org offers resources to help people quit smoking, focus on their mental health and access preventive health screenings.
The Living Well in Louisiana challenge is also available as a free mobile app that participants can use to track their progress on their smartphones.
"This website has an incredible amount of health and wellness information," said Rudy Macklin, executive director of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. "The site has inspirational messages from my former coach, Dale Brown; LSU football coach, Les Miles; and Shaquille O'Neal. Diet and exercise are hard to do alone, so we're giving Louisiana residents an innovative online tool and some new fitness challenges that will empower them to reach new heights of healthy living."
Living Well in Louisiana features four sets of challenges, each hosted by a celebrity:
Healthy Workplace Challenge (Les Miles Award) - is an exciting "Get Fit Crime Mystery Challenge," where participants earn miles equal to a race around London searching for clues to solve a case.
Family Challenge (Gov. Bobby Jindal Award) - is designed to incorporate one activity with your family from the family challenge list and track its progress. Families can choose from an indoor, outdoor and/or social activity.
Fit Schools Challenge (Malcolm Jenkins Award) -- challenges kids to track their miles as a race charting legendary explorers Lewis and Clark's trip to the Pacific and back!
Community Weight Loss Challenge (Shaquille O'Neal Award) -- allows you to watch yourself virtually fly over the horizon in a hot air balloon as you track your fruits and veggie intake, shed pounds and get lighter by the week. This challenge encourages healthy, sustainable weight loss (one to two pounds per week).
Adults competing in Living Well in Louisiana are encouraged to form teams of two to 10 people and take one of the challenges, but they may also compete as individual participants. If you want to create customized challenge for your workplace, exercise group or other team, contact the Living Well in Louisiana Office at 1-866-562-9015.
Participants earn points by achieving milestones in accumulated activity; losing weight through a healthy, appropriate diet and physical activity; and by increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption. Participants can track their daily/weekly exercise activities-from jogging and swimming to walking and mowing the lawn- online by entering these into their profile. The online tool automatically converts activities into "steps," which is how the challenge is measured.
The site also features specific information that encourages healthy eating and physical activity. With just a few clicks, participants can easily track their daily fruit, vegetable and water intake, body mass index and weight loss progress; print healthy recipes; send motivational e-cards; or create their own fitness challenges. The online tool allows individual and teams to create walking routes using Google Maps that log their distances and number of steps. These routes could be in nearby parks, on trails, around the participant's office or in his/her neighborhood.
Registration for teams and individuals is open at www.livingwellinlouisiana.org.