We encourage you, our readers, to get organized and lighten up.

Specifically, to organize teams of friends, family and co-workers and participate in Maine’s Lighten ME! program, a 102-day Web-based statewide wellness competition.

OK. OK. You’ve seen and heard enough reminders about fitness.

This is not just another “get fit” program, though. It’s pure competition. A bona fide “Biggest Loser” kind of motivational effort to get Maine to lighten up, literally. It’s about dropping pounds and aging well.

Since the program began in 2004, some 3,500 Mainers reported losing more than 30,000 pounds and exercising more than a million miles. In a state that consistently tops the list of most obese in the nation, this is good news.

Lighten ME! is a user-friendly program that mimics efforts in other states.

Competition, according to Maine Games Executive Director Jeff Scully, is the “key to the program’s success.”

“Nothing is more motivating than competition for most adults. We love to compete. So when teams of co-workers from one company can compete with teams from other companies, organizations, schools and other groups from Kittery to Fort Kent, it’s easy to get excited and keep moving,” he said.

Yep, competition is healthy and winning is good.

They know that in Rumford and Cape Elizabeth, where these towns’ respective high school football squads are the subject of an ongoing documentary examining their rivalry, an interesting contest of skill and stereotype.

Why stop there?

Rumford and Cape Elizabeth could challenge each other to see which town’s people can lose the most weight, with their progress posted online in real time for all to see.

If not the towns, then how about the town managers?

Or the football coaches?

Of course, the prize at the end of Lighten ME! is not money or glory. It’s better health, active lifestyles and lower health care costs. By participating in Lighten ME!, the entire state wins.

Lighten ME! kicks off Jan. 21. To register, go to www.lightenme.org. There is a $15 fee to participate.

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