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Put down that cookie, join Healthy Charleston Challenge

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Men and women are getting another chance to achieve success through a diet and exercise program that helps people in the Lowcountry establish lifelong healthy lifestyle habits. The second MUSC Healthy Charleston Challenge also is designed to help people take the first step toward better health by ending chronic disease and building healthier communities around South Carolina.
The 12-week program, which begins Sept. 11 and ends Nov. 20, is hosted by MUSC’s Harper Student Wellness Center and advocated by S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford. Designed from the TV reality show, The Biggest Loser, the challenge helps participants  achieve success through physical activity, professional guidance, teamwork and mentoring and accountability.
Enrollment deadline for the challenge is Aug. 20. Registration can be completed at or by visiting the Wellness Center membership desk. Applicants must be serious and ready to commit to weight loss through lifestyle changes.
Participants should be at least 25-plus pounds overweight and in need of a permanent lifestyle change due to increased risk of chronic disease. The fee for Wellness members is $150 and $250 for non-members. Applications will be reviewed and accepted based on a need for lifestyle change. Participants will be notified of acceptance by Aug. 25.
“We want as many people in the Tri-county area to take advantage of this program and gain better health and wellness,” said Janis Newton, program director at the Harper Student Wellness Center. “We did things right during the first challenge and we have similar, if not better, expectations for this second program. With the addition of a mentor program and support from first lady Jenny Sanford, we anticipate great results and success.”
During the first challenge, held for 10 weeks from January to March, more than 80 participants were guided to better health and wellness with a total weight loss of 1,500.6 pounds in 10-weeks. Final results confirmed that all challenge participants experienced weight loss or lost some percentage of their body weight. MUSC Boot Camp was the winning team with a 13.08 percent weight loss and 249.6 total pounds lost. The top individual winner was Grady Burton, MUSC Boot Camp team, who recorded a 16.57 percentage body weight loss and 52 pounds lost.
Reducing excess body weight along with efforts to increase fitness and activity levels lead to disease prevention and can enhance a person’s quality of life. Being inactive increases the risk for many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, muscle deterioration, cancer, obesity and depression, according to Newton.
Participants will undergo a pre-program screening and body composition testing a week prior to the official weigh-in in early September. Testing will be conducted by medicine and nursing students and include full blood lipid profiles (HDL, LDL, etc., cholesterol and glucose) for each participant. A post-test also will be conducted at the end of the program and results shared with participants.
Challenge members will be divided into 10 teams of eight people. Each team will participate in teamwork coaching and communication training from Brian Wilson of Adventure TeamWorks. Teams will be assigned a personal trainer and dietitian, attend weekly nutrition/educational sessions (Thursdays) and work under the guidance of a program physician and psychologist. Workouts can be done at home, outside, or in any fitness center location. As part of the challenge program package, participants receive an active Wellness Center membership throughout the duration of the program. The winning team/individual will be determined based on the percentage of body weight lost by the entire team/individual.
Newton leads an experienced team of leaders for this second challenge including Judith Herron, registered dietitian, nutritionist; James Johnson, head trainer; David Albenberg, M.D., of Access Healthcare, program physician; Josh Brown, Ph.D., director of clinical services, MUSC Weight Management Center, program psychologist, plus other fitness trainers, mentors and volunteers.
Fall challenge team sponsors include MUSC Weight Management Center, Charleston County Parks and Recreation, MUSC Boot Camp, Access Healthcare, Jason’s Deli, Anderson Insurance, and newcomers Joe D. Bands–the Flex Band training system; The Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College; Charleston Fit Quest; and Adventure TeamWorks.
Winning teams and individuals will have a chance to win prize packages including a pair of gold passes from the county parks, cooking classes and dinner from the Culinary Institute of Charleston (TTC), money from Jason’s Deli, a week free “active vacation” from Fit Quest, and other gift certificates from challenge sponsors.
For information, contact Newton at 792-4141 or visit

Friday, Aug. 15, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.