Shape Up, named one of the “Best Places to Work” in Rhode Island for 2013, has recently become a nationwide initiative. What began as a statewide weight loss and exercise program in Rhode Island has proven to be a successful “prescription” for a healthy lifestyle. This movement made exercise and nutrition a team effort, encouraging Rhode Islanders to challenge each other to achieve healthier lifestyles. Participants lose weight as a team challenge of physical activity and better nutrition. Since the program’s inception, over 70,000 people have participated and lost over a million pounds in the state of Rhode Island alone.

The program was founded in 2006 by Dr. Rajiv Kumar, who was a student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Kumar, along with fellow classmate Dr. Brad Weinberg, founded the program on the belief that most of their clinical patients who successfully changed their lifestyle and lost weight did it through support of family, friends and colleagues.  Shape Up’s mission was to make health interventions a social activity so participants would be more likely to achieve their goals with the support of others.

Now, Shape Up uses social networking, gaming and behavioral economics to achieve their mission. Participants sign up with a team and are allowed to invite others to join in the challenge. There are a variety of divisions teams can enroll in. Members also have the chance to win weekly raffles and prizes, as well as receive discounts at many local health clubs and wellness stores.

Shape Up has been most popular among companies who are encouraging healthy lifestyles among their employees. The next Shape Up RI challenge begins September 30th, and is challenging teams to work to be the most “in-shape” company in RI.