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Big Bears to Little Bears fitness challenge encourages healthy lifestyles

For some people, starting a new semester is like ringing in the new year. It may bring a whole new set of interesting classes to take, the start of a new job or it might bring the courage to make some lifestyle changes. Those who are interested in becoming fit this new semester are participating in the Big Bears to Little Bears fitness challenge, which started last week on Feb. 1 at the New Balance Recreation Center.  

According to the the Big Bears to Little Bears webpage, the challenge is designed as a 12-week fitness challenge where teams of four to six people are assisted by a certified trainer who helps them make progress toward a healthier lifestyle. Each team works out in two team-based sessions per week, where they earn points and are scored on participation, recreation, weight loss and improvements in overall fitness.

“They [the trainers] put you through a fairly rigorous program,” Personal Trainer, Sanna Norwood said. Norwood is the Big Bears to Little Bears coordinator. “It’s mostly weight loss, but we found that once people start the program, they’ll lose the weight, they’ll really like the program and just stick with it.”

Norwood said that the program was started by a previous trainer who wanted a way for the general public to come in and have a weight loss challenge. It was kind of a way to compete similarly in style to the reality T.V. show “The Biggest Loser,” which was popular at the time Big Bears to Little Bears began.

Over time however, the program began to shift away from just focusing on weight loss and became more focused on healthy living in general.

“We have a pretty broad client base right now between weight loss and general fitness,” Norwood said.  

According to the Washington Post, many health clubs or gyms have started to offer group personal training similar to the Big Bears to Little Bears Program. Health and fitness sites, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, reported that some of the benefits of group exercise include enjoyment from working out with others and having guidance and diversity in workouts.  

Norwood spoke in depth about the program’s goal and how it helps people get the most out of the program. She explained how every client is provided with a calendar with lifestyle challenges or a Group X challenge.  

“Basically every time you work out or you complete a lifestyle challenge, which is either mental health, nutritional health or physical health, you get a point. At the end of the program I calculate which team lost the most weight, which improved their fitness assessment scores the most, and which team basically did the most during the length of the semester,” Norwood said.

Even though Norwood has been with the program for a short amount of time, she already has witnessed firsthand the success of the program and has had clients personally thank her for their growth from the program.  

“Most people realize that they have the potential to be really healthy and really fit, and we make it as fun as we can,” Norwood said.  

The Big Bears to Little Bears fitness challenge begins two to three weeks after the start of every semester. Those who are interested can register two to three weeks before the start date of the program and registration can be done at the Rec Center.

“I think the biggest thing about Big Bears to Little Bears is that it is about personal health. We don’t want the challenge aspect to scare anybody away,” Norwood said. “The trainers are there to make you healthier. The competition is there to push you to better yourself.”

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