Brazos Valley Slim Down

The costs associated with obesity are enormous.

Each year, 112,000 people die from obesity-related conditions.

It's a problem that impacts individuals and employers alike, affecting the bottom line of companies everywhere.

Financially, the disease adds $93 billion to the nation's medical bill every year.

But now some Bryan/College Station businesses want to lead the way to a healthier nation, and see more results from nine to five.

"There's no moderation, there's no awareness," Personal Trainer Charlie Lima said.

That's why one-third of the U.S. population is obese.

"They just don't make time for it. They've got families, they've got businesses. There's always something else that is more important at that time," Lima said.

So some Bryan/College Station residents are taking their workouts to work.

Personal trainer Charlie Lima heads up an early morning training session at Scott and White in College Station.

Employees rise before the sun comes up, to shape up.

"The first time I did it, I thought, I can do this. Until the next day, I could hardly walk," boot camp participant Brenda Dove said.

So what brought her back?

"I guess I like pain," laughs Dove.

That pain is turning into gain for the Scott and White medical records specialist.

The 49-year-old hasn't missed a class in seven months.

"When you work on your own, sometimes you work the same muscles all the time and you get them bigger and let the other ones go," Dove said. "This way, you work upper one day and lower the other day, and it evens out."

Absenteeism and productivity are the two driving factors that has businesses jumping on the corporate wellness wagon.

"If you exercise, if you give yourself that little bit of time to do something good for yourself, you're going to feel better about everything," Lima said.

"I think the direction that companies and corporations are going is hiring individuals or personal trainers to do fitness programs."

And it's not just medical professionals at Scott and White that are sweating off the pounds.

The Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce has launched an entire workplace wellness campaign.

They say fit employees, are better employees.

Sharon Brown is the chairman of the Wellness Committee for the B/CS Chamber of Commerce.

"If we can increase the productivity of an employee and lower the claims cost of an employee, I think you'll see reduced costs and help the bottom line of any business," Brown said.

It's a concept based on Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who put his entire city on a diet.

"By telling our citizens we're going to lose a million pounds, what I was really trying to do was get their attention. Let's concentrate on obesity and realize what great health implications are facing us if we don't address this situation sooner rather than later," Mayor Cornett said.

For Bryan/College Station, that sooner is now.

60 employees from local businesses are participating in the Chamber's Fitness Challenge.

Each team has a personal trainer. At the end of 12 weeks, the biggest loser -- wins.

"We are the slimulus package. We're cutting the pork," Fitness Challenge participant Mary Jo Prince said.

Teammate Glen Brewer weighs in, "Having a team to work with is better because you can count on each other and get support from each other, and you don't want to let the team down."

As the local economy prepares for growth in 2010, businesses hope that growth doesn't include employee's waistlines.

"This is the before. Catch us in 12 weeks and you'll see the after," exclaimed participant LaJonya Nelson.

The teams will weigh-in again May 29 to find out who is the biggest loser.

As for the Scott and White boot camp, the class has dropped from about 30 participants to just five.

Initially, the health center paid 30 percent of the cost, but because of budget cutbacks, Scott and White had to stop contributing.

Bottom line, the Chamber doesn't care if you're a business or an individual.

Their goal is for the entire community to lose weight and become healthier.

To learn more about the Chamber's health initiative, and to find out how you or your company can get started, go to the Chamber's website

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