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Club invests in sweat equity for fitness

Danielle Deming is building sweat equity at Solon Springs School. The long-term substitute teacher launched a new fitness club in February to encourage fitness and boost community health.

Exercise club
Jamie Jackson, a senior at Solon Springs, punches along with a workout DVD after school in the choir room at Solon Springs School with the newly formed fitness club at the school. Behind her, Hannah Kosobucki, 21, left, and junior Dakotah Hartshorn, join the workout. More photos of the club can be seen in a gallery at www.superiortelegram.com. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Danielle Deming is building sweat equity at Solon Springs School. The long-term substitute teacher launched a new fitness club in February to encourage fitness and boost community health.

"It's building a habit and building an awareness that this is important," she said.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, the club meets after school in the choir room. Deming mixes up their workouts -- one day it's yoga, the next kick boxing or a CD of "The Biggest Loser Workout." They stretch, they move and they bond.

"It gives me confidence and something to do," said Dakotah Hartshorn, a junior. "And I would like to fit back in my old clothes again."

Classmates Courtney Sanders and Hannah Runions joined to become more physically fit.

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"I've just got to get in shape," said senior Jamie Jackson, who is planning to join the U.S. Air Force. "I have boot camp in two months."

Along the way, they found discovered something new. Working out together, Runions said, is "fun."

"Practically all these people are my friends," said sophomore Renee Thorssen.

The thing that sets this exercise group apart is who is invited -- everyone. Teachers and community members are welcome to take part in the free program.

"My brother came once," said Emily Martens, 21, a friend of Deming who works out with the group.

Principal Sue Chandler was happy to give the group a green light.

"I just think it's a great idea," she said, both for students who don't participate in athletics and for teachers who don't have a fitness routine of their own.

"It's important for them to know there's other things they can do," said Deming, a 2003 graduate of Solon Springs who holds a degree in wellness and fitness management. "Some kids are not competitive but they like to exercise."

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The sessions provide an essential ingredient for exercising -- motivation.

"When you're working out by yourself, it's just you," Deming said. "In a group, people are going to hold you accountable."

That came in handy the week students returned from spring break. Without the group to come back to, Deming said, even she would have been tempted to skip.

Countywide need

Lack of activity has left its mark on Douglas County. A 2007 Wisconsin County Health Ranking found 53 percent of Douglas County residents are inactive, 66 percent are overweight and 24 percent are obese.

A five-year Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) was implemented last year. It placed physical fitness and healthy eating as one of three top health concerns for Douglas County. In 2008, the group focused on getting people moving.

A fitness challenge was given to Douglas County employees in August. They were encouraged to save gas and build better health by car pooling, biking or walking to work. Only 15 people took part, but they walked a total of 448 miles and burned more than 58,000 calories.

"Exercise campaigns and activities jump start people," said Grace Gee, nutrition education coordinator with UW-Extension and CHIP co-chairwoman. In addition to the county challenge, the CHIP group has compiled a new physical activity guide that highlights places to go to be active.

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The ones who need that extra push aren't youth, Gee found. A CHIP survey showed that while most youth are physically active, adults let too many things get in the way.

Gee encouraged people to sneak fitness in by walking during their lunch hour or parking 10 blocks away from the office.

"It works better to make it part of your day," she said.

The benefits include a healthier heart, stronger muscles and more flexible body as well as a release of endorphins at the end of each workout.

"Your body is meant to move," Gee said.

This year the CHIP is focused on providing healthier food choices. Members are working with vending companies to encourage more healthy options for machines in the Superior School District, Douglas County and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

In Solon Springs, Deming continues to offer biweekly classes. There are signs that a habit is forming.

"It seems they're taking more of an interest in fitness," she said. "Even if the club is canceled, they will run laps around the gym."

For more information on the CHIP, look it up on the Douglas County Web site, www.douglascountywi.org/ , under the heading 2008-2012 Community Health Improvement Plan.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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