‘Get Fit’ feeling fine

Lee Steinmetz went off script in his brief presentation during Friday morning’s annual Get Fit Kauai meeting.

The chairman of the safe routes to school task force pointed out the number of schools involved rose to six from four. He noted they’ve received $1.1 million in grants. He said there has been more islandwide training on student safety, too.

“We’re really on the cutting edge,” he said to about 100 people gathered at the Courtyard Marriott.

And then, he ventured a little beyond the program.

People, Steinmetz said, have in the past been skeptical and questioned when they would see these safe walking routes and biking paths so often mentioned by Get Fit Kauai.

“When will we see these things happen?” was a standard question.

Steinmetz said he has the answer.

“We’re moving forward and we are starting to see these changes,” he said, as the crowd applauded.

Get Fit’s annual meeting was billed as the “Breakfast of Champions.” It included county, state, business and community leaders committed to improving the health of Kauai by encouraging physical activity and increasing access to affordable, healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy.

“The most impressive thing for me about this morning is who is in this room,” said Get Fit Kauai Director Bev Brody.

Earlier this year, Get Fit Kauai received national recognition by winning the National Physical Activity Plan Congress Champion Award.

It was one of three selected out of about 2,500 entries. Beyond the award accepted in Washington, D.C., in February by Brody, it means the organization is a national model and people are looking to it for leadership in a campaign against obesity, diabetes, stress and cardiovascular disease due to inactivity and poor diet.

Get Fit Kauai’s efforts have been honored by the Legislature, Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s administration and others.

An emotional Brody credited each person in the room for their commitment to living and promoting good health.

“It means the world to me to have you here and move forward with this fabulous plan that you have all contributed to,” she said. “I really, really want to thank you for putting Kauai on the map.”

Get Fit Kauai’s successes include its Worksite Wellness program that encourages businesses to help their employees live healthy lifestyles by offering such things as bicycle racks, gym access or fruit at work instead of doughnuts. The annual Mayorathon attracts about a thousand people for a morning of walking, running, cycling, Zumba and other activities, as well as a free breakfast. The seventh Mayorathon is set for June 20 in Kapaa.

Get Fit Kauai also is an advocate of alternate means of transportation. About 10 people raised their hands when asked if they got to the meeting without using a vehicle.

“Excellent,” said Jodi Drisko, Get Fit Kauai chairwoman.

The group’s success is no surprise to Mary Williamson, bicycle racing representative on Kauai. Outdoor activities like swimming, surfing, cycling, hiking and running are ingrained in the island’s spirit.

“Get Fit Kauai is an amazing group of well-connected, action-oriented people,” she said.

It is not done.

Part of Friday’s program was seeking ways to continue to better the island health. Some suggested focusing on low-income populations, help worksites eliminate smoking, better roadway standards adopted by the county and promoting gardening. Offering free exercise programs in parks and increasing required physical education classes in schools were also mentioned.

Katie Richards of the Hawaii Department of Health was pleased to join the celebration of Get Fit Kauai’s accomplishments and said it is having an impact.

“People are looking to you to see how to do it,” she said. “Kauai is leading the way.”

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