Cory Booker Challenges Newark to Get Fit — Online

By Debra Falk

Photo by Debra Falk.

Logging onto a computer to get fit may seem counter-intuitive, but that’s just what Newark Mayor Cory Booker is hoping residents in and around the city will do. The mayor launched the “Cory Booker Challenge” this week, a web-based fitness game that rewards residents for being active.

Booker unveiled the initiative in a press conference this Tuesday at the Newark Museum, home of an interactive family-fitness and nutrition exhibit called “Generation Fit.” Both the Challenge and the exhibit support First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to eradicate childhood obesity within a generation, of which Booker is co-chair.

Booker’s self-named Challenge localizes the national fitness initiative. To participate, users log on to using their Facebook accounts to share their health and fitness goals and activities, from walking and jogging to going to the gym and cutting calories. They are encouraged to promote their success on Facebook and Twitter. The goal is to make fitness and a healthy lifestyle competitive and social, and for camaraderie between users to keep personal exercise and fitness routines going. Among the Facebook “friends” in the Challenge will be the mayor himself, who indicated that he is looking to lose weight and will periodically post personal notes of encouragement for others. Those who are most active in the Challenge program will receive cyber-trophies and vie for ranking on a leaderboard. Newark residents have an additional incentive: weekly monetary prizes made possible by the General Mills Foundation, main sponsor of the Cory Booker Challenge.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Booker demonstrated his commitment by trying out some of the Newark Museum’s Generation Fit exhibit fitness equipment. He also commented on his own weight challenges, describing the three suit sizes that can be found in his closet: “skinny”, “medium” and “fat.” Booker said the Challenge is a way for his city to become a “purpose-driven community” and will encourage residents to have the “integrity to live your true self.”

Dr. Ismael Calderon, Director of Science for the Newark Museum, said initiatives like the mayor’s challenge and the Generation Fit exhibit are providing individuals and families with engaging, useful tool kits that are easy to reference and incorporate into daily routines, ultimately promoting healthier lifestyles for generations to come.

According to Booker, the Challenge is slated to run 90 days, but his team will gauge its response and potentially extend it. According to Matt Martone of ClixLocal Media, the developers of the Corey Booker Challenge website, the site will continue to build and grow its features based upon user patterns and suggestions.