The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral recently wrapped up its first-ever fitness challenge, after 12 weeks of focusing on nutrition and exercise.
The challenge, held in conjunction with the Lee Memorial Health System and funded by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, started in March and ended in May. Multiple awards were presented during a ceremony Thursday.
"The rate of chronic disease continues to rise - diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol - and we continue to see significant numbers of people with weight problems," Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina, vice president of health and wellness at LMHS, said.
Open to chamber members and the public, the challenge offered people an opportunity to get engaged and improve their own health and wellness.
"I got involved in it because I was looking for ways to create community awareness about health and wellness," Mike Quaintance, the president of Cape chamber, said. "Our purpose was just to create some awareness."
He explained that it took about three months of planning. The chamber solicited sponsorship funds from the local foundation so that the first 100 people to sign up only had to pay $60 to participate, rather than $160.
The fee covered the tests at the start and end of the challenge.
LMHS tested participants' vitals, checked areas like cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels, and conducted stress, strength and flexibility tests.
"The goal was to see who could show the greatest improvement," he said.
According to Lacagnina, 97 people signed up to participate, but only 41 completed the post-challenge tests. Participants were ages 23 to 70.
"The majority of people did fabulous," he said.
Lacagnina explained that one person lost 48 percent of their body fat and another person experienced a 15-year decrease in the age of their body.
"The people that are really getting engaged in these challenges are doing what they need to do to get healthy," he said.
LMHS provided participants with classes on nutrition and exercise.
"They were basically told what they should be doing, but it was really up to the individuals to get out there and do it," Lacagnina said.
Quaintance dropped 40 pounds in the challenge, down to 225 pounds.
"I figured it was a good way to take care of myself," he said of why he participated. "I'm getting older and trying to avoid going on medications to reduce my cholesterol levels and stuff like that."
Quaintance's triglyceride count also dropped from 441 to 124.
"I'm in the normal range," he said, adding that his hypertension is gone.
During the challenge, Quaintance steered clear of doing any exercise and focused on nutrition alone, including portion control, eliminating sugary drinks like Slurpees and donuts, and sticking to a plant-based protein-based diet.
"I was testing myself to see how effective I'd be with just nutrition," he said.
Quaintance also drank "a lot more water than I've ever consumed before."
At a ceremony Thursday, awards were given to the top three male and female "losers" in five different age categories. Twelve teams also took part in the challenge, with the top three "losing" teams also recognized.
Lacagnina said he would have picked Quaintance as the overall winner.
"His numbers had improved so dramatically," he said.
Quaintance noted that he now has a lot more energy and no longer needs to use a breathing apparatus to sleep. He is incorporating exercise, like yoga and cardio, into his new diet to work toward his ideal weight of 175 pounds.
"I get a full night's sleep," he said. "Life is good."
The chamber hopes to do the challenge again next year.
"It worked out good, I think," Quaintance said. "Everybody was happy with the results."
Any individual, company or organization interested in hosting their own fitness challenge can e-mail Lacagnina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Our emphasis is really for Lee Memorial Health System to be seen as a place where you can go for wellness, not just for sickness," he said.