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From left to right, Mindy Lindgren, Tamara Smith and Julie Newman head out on a morning run in Ashland after dropping their kids off at school. - Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune

FUNDRAISING AND FITNESS Exercising for a cause Group of women use six-week workout challenge as a motivator

Exercising to benefit a charitable cause has given a group of Ashland women the motivation to become more active.

Last spring, Julie Newman was trying to think of a way to get more exercise.

“I’m an active person in general, but it’s amazing how exercise can fall by the wayside,” she said.

Her solution was to send an email to friends inviting them to take part in a competitive six-week event she dubbed the Women’s Exercise Challenge.

About 25 joined in, and she randomly divided them into small teams. Each person contributed $20 to a pool that grew to $500.

Every time a woman exercised for at least 30 minutes in a day, she scored a point. The teams tracked their progress using a Google spreadsheet.

At the end of the six-week challenge, the winning team donated the $500 to La Clinica for its school-based health clinics.

This past fall, even more women joined in for a second round of the six-week exercise challenge.

A team nicknamed The Shred Ready Betties emerged victorious and donated $700 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Oregon. NAMI provides education, support and advocacy for people with mental health conditions and their families in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Newman said The Shred Ready Betties had members who were already quite active, but the challenge pushed them to find ways to exercise each day.

Three of the teams finished within five points of each other, she noted.

Newman said even relatively sedentary people improved their activity levels during the challenge.

“Some went from zero days of exercising per week to three days a week, but that was better than what it was before,” she said.

Knowing their money would go to a charitable cause provided motivation for many of the participants, Newman said.

“For a lot of people, that felt good,” she said.

Many women also learned they had a streak of competitiveness. The women were internally motivated to exercise more, but also wanted to do well in the team competition, Newman said.

“I think the key I heard from them was we all realized we have a little competitive piece internally and publicly,” she said.

Newman said she ended up exercising most days during the six-week challenges.

She plans to organize another six-week challenge later this spring.

People are welcome to join the third round of the exercise challenge, or organize their own.

The participants have engaged in a wide variety of physical activity, including walking, hiking, biking, running and yoga.

Many of the participants have been working women with children, a group that often struggles to have time to exercise, Newman said.

“That extra little push was what they needed,” she said.

People who want to join Newman’s next exercise challenge can reach her at julienewman756@gmail.com.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

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