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Team up, lose weight, earn money

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For many people, post-holiday blues has nothing to do with the weather or the end of a seemingly non-stop string of parties and festivities.

Weeks of snacking on cookies, sitting down for holiday banquets and filling up on decadent appetizers have packed on the pounds.

Travel schedules and time with family have pushed aside efforts to exercise.

But the start of the new year brings fresh hope. And local health officials have the way to get your workout in while potentially earning some prize money at the same time.

Another round of Dump Your Plump starts Monday, encouraging residents to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days each week. Teams of area residents are setting goals for weight loss, and the teams that meet the goals the most during the 10-week span of the competition could win $1,000.

“Whether someone has a little or a lot of weight to lose, it doesn’t matter. It helps you with whatever journey you need to take,” said Penny Bramner, a Needham resident and three-time participant in Dump Your Plump.

Bramner had been looking for a way shed the extra pounds she had been carrying around. Though she would regularly exercise, either at the gym or on her home treadmill, there was never anything to push her harder.

Nobody would hold her accountable if she skipped a day.

She learned about Dump Your Plump after seeing an advertisement from Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County, which organizes the competition.

“It makes you more aware of what you’re putting in your body and the time you’re taking to work out. It’s been a great thing for me to do,” she said.

The competition asks team members to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Participants also are asked to set a reasonable weight-loss goal.

Computer software tabulates points for the teams based on the goals met.

The weight-loss aspect ensures people eat right. The exercise mandate makes them healthier and helps establish a routine that keeps the weight off, said Beth Ross, program operations coordinator for Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County.

Teams can be made up of four to 10 people and can be a mix of friends, family, co-workers or anyone else who wants get fit.

The program has become increasingly popular with area businesses, Ross said. Part of that has been a push for workplace wellness, with businesses actively encouraging their employees to be healthier to help lighten the load of insurance costs.

Individual businesses are going above the $1,000 team prize, adding incentives such as additional money to the team members who have best met their goals.

Last year, Johnson Memorial Hospital offered a $500 prize to the employee who had the most success, Ross said.

To help other businesses, the hospital also has provided a mobile wellness team to go to businesses and talk to them about keeping fit. REMC and Mutual Savings Bank participated.

“They promote Dump Your Plump as a way to win points for their own wellness program. It’s a good way to motivate them. We’re a staple in a lot of their programs,” Ross said.

When Amy Hartwell started her new job as a payroll specialist with the Greenwood firm AccuPay, she realized there wasn’t a wellness program in place.

She had worked at Johnson Memorial Hospital for 12 years and during that time had competed in Dump Your Plump multiple times.

“It had always helped me meet the goals that I set,” she said. “Everybody is always looking to lose weight, and I knew several of my co-workers had been trying. I thought it might be a good team-building exercise.”

The team, which called itself Larry & the Muffintops, finished in the Top 10 of the loss standings. Although a couple of people didn’t meet their fitness goals, everyone who participated felt better after the competition was done, Hartwell said.

Dump Your Plump kicked off in 2004, and since then, 26 rounds of the competition have been conducted.

The last round was from September to December and featured 56 teams, said Lorri Lefevers, program liaison with Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County.

Of the 376 participants, 95 met or exceeded their weight-loss goals. More than 2,200 pounds were lost in total, an average of almost six pounds per person.

Lefever expects that to increase this time around.

“Usually, the New Year round is the most popular round, so there will probably be more people taking part,” she said.

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