FITWEEK flexes New Haven’s muscles

New Haven residents break a sweat during FITWEEK.
New Haven residents break a sweat during FITWEEK. Photo by Shana Schneider.

Greater New Haven and Fairfield County residents are breaking a sweat this week as part of the second annual FITWEEK event.

Founded by Shana Schneider ’00 in 2011, FITWEEK is a company that encourages people to live a healthy lifestyle throughout the year. The company is currently sponsoring its biggest annual event, which allows those across New Haven and Fairfield County access to hundreds of exercise classes at participating local businesses from Sept. 30 until Oct. 6. The classes are available to those who purchase a $20 FITWEEK pass, whose proceeds will support cancer research and patient care at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.

“You have to find a workout that you really connect with because then you will keep going,” Schneider said. “The FITWEEK event is a good opportunity for people to try different local fitness options.”

The event kicked off on Monday with a 30-minute lunchtime walk led by Schneider and Anees Chagpar, director of the Breast Center at Smilow Hospital. About 25 people gathered outside the Smilow Cancer Hospital to walk and talk about the health benefits of physical fitness, Chagpar said.

For the rest of the week, pass-holders can attend fitness classes ranging from salsa dancing to kickboxing at over 150 participating businesses in Greater New Haven and Fairfield County.

Margot Broom, owner of Breathing Room — a local yoga center — agreed to participate in this year’s event by allowing pass-holders to attend three yoga classes for free during the week.

“I think it’s a great way for people to try different avenues of fitness,” Broom said. “And there’s definitely a return on the investment — for the most part, people come in and they completely fall in love with what we do and want to come back.”

Director of the New Haven Open at Yale, an internationally acclaimed women’s tennis tournament, Anne Worcester attended the kick-off walk with seven other New Haven Open staff members and said she has used her pass to attend a Zumba class and a yoga class.

“It’s all about trying something new in an effort to stay fit,” she said.

In addition to helping people find a fitness class that suits their lifestyle, organizers said the event is meant to highlight the link between physical fitness and cancer prevention. For last year’s FITWEEK event, the passes were free and money was raised through sponsors and individual donors. But this year, Schneider said she decided to directly link the passes to the donation to create a clear connection between exercise and cancer prevention.

“Based on the research, it’s pretty clear that physical activity is beneficial, whether that is in reducing cancer risk, increasing survivorship, or reducing the risks of other diseases like cardiovascular disease,” Chagpar said.

Although the FITWEEK event only lasts one week, Schneider said she continues to help people add fitness to their daily routines through the company’s monthly fitness events and an ongoing online campaign that stresses exercise. In one video, “2-min Workout with a Toothbrush” she shows viewers how to strengthen their legs through leg lifts and squats while simultaneously brushing their teeth.

The idea is to be active throughout the week, rather than burning yourself out at the gym once a week, said Schneider.

As part of the event, Schneider is leading a 30-minute walk on Yale campus on Friday afternoon and a “shopping walk” through The Shops at Yale and Chapel Street Boutiques on Saturday.

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