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Give up the TV to find time

Forget must-see TV. Next week a series of events kicks off aimed at getting people of all ages off the couch and moving. Whether you feel like getting some fresh air while cleaning up Heritage Park, reading a book with a child or learning about n...

Forget must-see TV.

Next week a series of events kicks off aimed at getting people of all ages off the couch and moving.

Whether you feel like getting some fresh air while cleaning up Heritage Park, reading a book with a child or learning about nutrition, there's something for everyone during national TV Turn Off Week.

Not only will participants find more time on their hands, they could start on the path to better fitness.

A week of moving

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The Human Development Center's Project Reach Out is daring Superior residents to turn off the TV and move during the weeklong Shape Up Superior Fitness Challenge.

"It improves the quality of life," said Rachael Kresha, an AmeriCorps Outreach Specialist with Project Reach Out. Exercise improves mental and physical health, she said, and combats obesity, which is a nationwide epidemic.

Participants are asked to spend as much time moving - walking, running, swimming, gardening, dancing, mowing lawn, even doing household chores - as they spend watching TV. That could involve quite a commitment. According to A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than four hours of TV each day. That equals two months of nonstop TV watching per year.

"We challenge local business employees to get their move on," Kresha said. "We will be challenging them to park a little further away from work ... take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk on their lunch break."

Participants in Shape Up Superior are asked to keep track of their activity for the week. Those who put in the most exercise could win prizes, Kresha said. Anytime Fitness is offering a special promotion in conjunction with the challenge. Anyone who mentions Shape Up Superior at the gym in the Blaine Business Center will get a free week trial membership or a free month and a waived registration fee if that person signs up for a one-year membership.

The challenge is similar to that issued by the Douglas County Department of Health and Human Services the past two years to mark August, energy awareness month. The month-long event encourages county and city employees to reduce their carbon footprint by walking, biking or carpooling to work. Last year, the 45 participants biked 985 miles, took 3,472 flights of stairs and burned 154,052 calories. They saved 254.5 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

"If you look at those numbers, they're quite impressive," said Lynne Bauer, public health nurse. "They could be even higher."

Exercise offers a cornucopia of benefits.

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"It burns calories, lowers blood pressure and lowers the risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer," Bauer said, but the motivation to move must come from within.

The path to fitness doesn't always include jogging, Kresha said, but it does include getting more active. The challenge is aimed at getting residents into a habit of moving.

"Hopefully families can incorporate it into their lives," Kresha said.

You are what you eat

While exercise can play a pivotal role in increasing health, Bauer said, it isn't enough. People also have to eat a healthy diet.

Monday, dietitian Bonnie Brost lifts the veil separating people from healthy eating during a free community presentation at 7 p.m. in the Superior High School Performing Arts Center.

"This is a great event," Bauer said.

Brost, who works in the cardiac rehab and heart-to-heart preventative cardiac program at St. Mary's Duluth Clinic, asks the question, "Do we really know what we're eating?" The night includes a review of basic nutrition guidelines, tips on deciphering food labels and a look at the foods restaurants and manufacturers are creating for people to eat. By increasing awareness of what we need and what is really out there, Brost asserts, people can take back control over their diets.

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Read, don't watch

Children are encouraged to dive into a book instead of channel surf during the Read-a-thon event taking place at Superior Middle School from 3-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The event, sponsored by the Community Youth Project Group, serves a dual purpose. It provides fun activities that don't revolve around TV - an obstacle course, weaving, time to play disc golf and reading - and raises money for a public disc golf course in Superior's Central Park. A light supper will be served.

"We tried to make it a cool event," said Sheila Fillmore, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker with Douglas County UW-Extension who started the group.

Disc golf is an inexpensive outdoor activity for all ages. Disc golf is similar to regular golf, except the tees are baskets on poles. Instead of a golf ball and clubs, players send flying discs airborne toward the baskets The Superior City Council has given approval for the course to be built. Now, the youth group is raising the estimated $6,800 to install the six-tee course.

The Read-a-thon lock in is aimed at children in kindergarten through grade eight. Pre-registration is required by today. Contact Fillmore at (715) 395-1576 or sheila.fillmore@ces.uwex.edu to register and receive a pledge sheet.

Clean up

Take time to clean up Superior from 3-4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Heritage Park, which houses the skate park. The Superior Parks and Recreation Department is supplying garbage bags and personnel to pick up the bags, but they need community members to provide the manpower.

There are a host of hurdles to exercise and good nutrition, Bauer said.

"I know we live very sedentary lifestyles," she said. People come home from work and don't want to do anything else. They purchase unhealthy fast food or processed foods because it's cheaper and easier than cooking at home. But this week offers a handful of events meant to break families out of those molds.

"It takes motivation," Bauer said, but making the change to healthy eating and exercise offers benefits far beyond a night of "must see TV."

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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