January 23, 2009

Students can vie for ‘Saluki’s Healthiest Loser’ title

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is planning its very own version of television’s “Biggest Loser,” but with a twist. Saluki’s Healthiest Loser Challenge is a competition that’s all about learning to lead a healthy lifestyle and improve overall fitness and wellness.

“Saluki’s Healthiest Loser Challenge addresses the whole person,” said Lynne Thompson-Cundiff, assistant director of fitness for Recreational Sports and Services. “We’re trying to give them the health and wellness tools to bring about a lifestyle change. We want to focus on all aspects of health.”

The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students in good academic and judicial standing who have a body mass index of 25 or greater and are willing to commit to exercising three to six hours weekly during the 10-week challenge.

Although the program’s market value is $800, the entry fee is just $50. That covers 30 workouts with a certified personal trainer, a pair of fitness and health assessments, a medical screening, group sessions with nutritionists and counselors, nutrition and fitness educational materials, a T-shirt and group fitness classes. Free group workouts run the gamut from hydrolics to cycling, step and hip-hop to pump and core. There’s kickboxing, zumba, Pilates, Saluki sculpting and much more.

With so many choices, there’s a workout with appeal for each contestant. And, that’s the formula that makes this contest special. It’s not about trying to make everyone adhere to a specific diet and exercise plan. It’s not about quickly shedding lots of weight. It’s about giving contestants the tools and support to help them develop a healthier long-term life plan and lifestyle.

The Student Health Center, Counseling Center and Wellness Center, along with the Department of Kinesiology, are collaborating with Recreational Sports and Services for the competition. Contestants get nutrition sessions, lifestyle counseling and an individualized training plan. Kinesiology students will work with certified personal trainers to help contestants while acquiring valuable leadership and training experience.

“The Saluki’s Healthiest Loser Challenge is designed to help contestants make important lifestyle changes and grow, helping them lead a healthier lifestyle in a fun way,” Thompson-Cundiff said. “It’s also a valuable leadership and training experience for those who help with the program.“

There’s no guarantee contestants will lose weight. In fact, that’s not even a factor in determining the winner, Thompson-Cundiff said. The contest does assure participants the chance to develop a personalized workout program, improve overall physical health and lifestyle, have fun and get fit.

A point system is in place to select the 2009 Saluki Healthiest Loser. Contestants will earn the points by gaining lean muscle mass, dropping inches in waist circumference, increasing flexibility, increasing lifting ability, decreasing body fat percentage, working out individually and more.

Students can find the Saluki’s Healthiest Loser application packet and more details about the competition online at www.reccenter.siu.edu. To enter, submit the completed application to the Life Style Enhancement Office at the Student Recreation Center no later than 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30. The contest runs Feb. 9 through April 24. Space is limited. A committee will select contestants from submitted applications.

Banterra Bank book scholarships of $500, $300 and $200 will go to first through third-prize winners. There are also weekly challenge prizes. Sponsors include Banterra Bank, Southern Illinois Healthcare, The Sprehe Family Foundation, Mary Kay Moore, Dr. Marsha Ryan and Star Trac. Competition organizers are still accepting sponsorship donations too. For more information, contact the SIUC Student Recreation Center at 618/453-1277.