The Greater Fall River Fitness Challenge will begin its 10th year in action on Saturday, Jan. 14, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Kuss Middle School, 52 Globe Mills Ave. in Fall River.

According to The Herald News, residents and workers in Fall River, Somerset, Swansea, and Westport are invited to join the challenge with a goal of getting fit during the first three months of the year.

Since the challenge started, about 25,000 pounds have been lost.

Coordinator of Healthy City Fall River, Dr. David Weed, stated that the challenge has endured for a couple of reasons.

“We have a good organization whose interest it is to improve health,” Weed said. “It wouldn't happen if people didn't participate.”

Approximately 500 people sign up each year for the Greater Fall River Fitness Challenge.

The program is simple and budget-friendly and does not require monthly fees, complex fitness gear, unattainable goals, or a strict diet.  All that is required is just the willingness to try.

To the best of Weed’s knowledge, the Greater Fall River Fitness Challenge is the longest-running fitness challenge of its type in the United States.

One of the things has changed since the challenge was started is that many participants are coming in at healthier weight levels with a goal of not just shedding a few pounds, but lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

According to Weed, about 52 percent of the population has diabetes or is at risk for developing the disease, so it is crucial to stay fit and eat healthy.

Dr. Weed and Southcoast Health registered dietician Amanda Raposo will offer nutrition sessions on Saturdays at Kuss from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. that stress the importance of healthy eating habits.

Also, the Greater Fall River Fitness Challenge has added more free fitness activities than in previous years, including a walking group and weekly exercise programs.

Each event will offer a free drawing for prizes. The man and woman who loses the greatest percentage of weight over the course of the program will be awarded $500. Smaller amounts will go to the second and third place winners. The finale will be on April 21.

Individuals and three-to eight-member teams, ages 16 and up, can sign up at the kickoff on Jan. 14. It will include a two-hour health fair, which will include more than 30 providers of health and related services, plus fitness demonstrations.

The cost to join the challenge is $10.

To learn more about the Greater Fall River Fitness Challenge, visit gfrpartners.com/frfitnesschallenge.html.

With additional reporting by Sal Lopez