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Officials Looking for More People to Go Bold, Help Washington County Lose One Million Pounds

With Olympians set to go for the gold in three weeks, Healthy Washington County officials are still encouraging the community to Go for Bold through its initiative to collectively lose 1 million pounds by the end of 2030.

This is also a great time to join because there are activities such as the Hub City 100 Miler, which kicks off Friday at Fairgrounds Park.

Go for Bold had a delayed start in October 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but supporters have continued to gain momentum by adding participating employers and are encouraging community members to join on their own as well.

"We need to have a healthier community and focus on prevention and wellness," said Dr. Douglas Spotts, Meritus Health's chief health officer.

With Olympians set to go for the gold in three weeks, Healthy Washington County officials are still encouraging the community to Go for Bold through its initiative to collectively lose 1 million pounds by the end of 2030.

This is also a great time to join because there are activities such as the Hub City 100 Miler, which kicks off Friday at Fairgrounds Park.

Go for Bold had a delayed start in October 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but supporters have continued to gain momentum by adding participating employers and are encouraging community members to join on their own as well.

"We need to have a healthier community and focus on prevention and wellness," said Dr. Douglas Spotts, Meritus Health's chief health officer.

The goal in the program's second year, by June 30, is to have over 4,000 people registered and have lost over 35,000 pounds, Spotts said. Registrants are nearing 2,800 and so far almost 28,000 pounds have been lost, he said Wednesday.

"We want to actually hit our bold goal," Spotts said. Healthy Washington County officials know it can be done because they studied how Oklahoma City did it after being labeled one of the unhealthiest cities in the nation. Oklahoma City had around 40,000 participants and was able to loss 1 million pounds in about five years, he said.

But more people need to register for the weight tracker and participate in healthy activities to improve their health as well as the community's, he said. A healthier community pays dividends economically and with safety.

Being significantly overweight can lead to issues such as hip and knee replacements and heart disease, Spotts said. It also can lead to worse outcomes if you get COVID-19, from factors like having diabetes.

Spotts said some people have been reluctant to join because they feel guilty if they gain back weight and it adds to the community weight tracker. But the cumulative weight tracker only shows the weight lost, while individuals can see their personal weight go up or down.

The community's health

Local health officials started the Go for Bold initiative based on the county's 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, which states that over 68% of the county's adults were overweight or obese.

Health officials expect to release results of the latest assessment this year. Preliminary results show obesity is still among the county's top health priorities, Spotts said.

Washington County is tied for sixth worst among Maryland's 24 jurisdictions concerning adults with obesity, according to CountyHealthRankings.org. The 2017 data states 37% of county residents 20 or older have a body mass index of 30 or greater.

The website uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and U.S. Census population estimates to get county-level estimates for concerns such as obesity, diagnosed diabetes and physical inactivity.

According to 2020 risk factor data from the CDC, 35.5% of Marylanders are overweight and another 31% are obese.

In the county and state, obesity is a "big driver of a lot of chronic diseases downstream," Spotts said.

Washington County was fifth worst in the state when it came to an estimated 28% of residents 20 and older reporting not doing any leisure-time physical activity, according to County Health Rankings.

Gaining partners

Go for Bold has already exceeded its goal of getting over 40 partners by June 30 with 51 and two more expected to join soon, Spotts said. Several employers have partnered, aligning the program with their wellness initiatives.

The Washington County Free Library is one of those planning to formally join, said Kathleen O'Connell, public service director. The library will share Go For Bold resources with its employees as well as post information at its main library and branches to help members of the public, she said.

O'Connell said the move expands what the library is doing to help the community learn about healthy lifestyles. That has included healthy cooking programs at the downtown Hagerstown library.

The library also provides free internet access, which will help people without internet access at home to register with Healthy Washington County, Spotts said.

Activities and support

The online weight tracker is an accountability tool for participants, but sometimes it takes friends, family, co-workers and community members to help motivate and challenge people.

One way to get started is to join this year's Hub City 100 Miler, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday by the old stables at Fairgrounds Park with a 1-mile walk.

There's no residential requirement, said Amy Riley, Hagerstown's recreation coordinator.

The goal is to average 1 mile a day for 100 days. But 20 solid minutes of purposeful physical activity equates to 1 mile for the tracking sheet, Riley said. So 20 minutes of shoveling snow is 1 mile, or 40 minutes of yoga is 2 miles.

Some local employers adopt the 100 Miler as part of their wellness program, Riley said.

Individuals also can register, with basic enrollment costing $10, according to the event website. For an extra cost, you can get a shirt or enroll with your dog. Registration continues through Jan. 31.

This is the perfect time of year for such a program because many people probably feel "crappy" after eating so much during the holiday season, Riley said. It's also cold so folks might not feel like doing anything.

Prizes are given out weekly through random drawings and there are grand prizes at the end, Riley said.

Participants get a weekly emailed newsletter with information about upcoming exercise classes and activities other organizations are holding.

Go for Bold registrants can join a closed Facebook group, Your Power House, which provides online workshops, monthly meet-ups and videos of training classes, said Tina Fraley, owner of Power House Studios in Hagerstown. Go for Bold registrants actively updating their weight tracker also can get a monthly pass to use equipment at her studio, she said.

The closed social group provides support for people trying to live a healthier lifestyle and includes recipes, movement options and mindsets, Fraley said. The group has health influencers throughout the county, including fitness instructors and a nutritionist. Fraley said she is a personal trainer and a community mental health counselor.

This article first published in The Herald-Mail and online at HeraldMailMedia.com in January 2022.