Across the country, there are so many low-profile fitness heroes fighting the battle against childhood obesity we don't know about. Thanks to ExerciseTV, the on-demand network founded by fitness icon Jake Steinfeld of Body by Jake fame, we now know about Brandy Cruthird, winner of the "Next American Fitness Star" contest.
As a reminder, Steinfeld held a contest in late 2006, including live auditions in Boston and Los Angeles, to choose someone whom he and his team would give the chance to become the next fitness personality a la Jake a couple of decades ago.
Cruthird, a physical education teacher in the Boston school system, was The Chosen One, selected in March from a field of about 1,000 applicants (although we're not sure they were all completely serious. Click here to see a Dec. 15, 2006, SNEWS® story, "ExerciseTV auditions 'America's Next Fitness Star.'") Cruthird will receive a one-year paid contract with ExerciseTV that includes appearing in an original fitness series on the network and hosting a monthly blog on exercisetv.tv, as well as a year's worth of New Balance footwear and apparel.
In addition to starting her own for-profit gym for adults, Cruthird also started a non-profit, free gym for kids. Cruthird said she felt saddened by the number of obese kids and as funding for physical education decreased, she wanted to find a way to help.
Initially, Cruthird approached Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts to provide families who couldn't afford a gym membership with her DVD. With the attention, she also went ahead and asked for help to open a kid's gym. Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) agreed, and their combined efforts raised over $250,000 from United Way and Children's Hospital.
"I'm passionate that if you can get the parents involved, you can get the kids involved," Cruthird told SNEWS®.
Now, kids who have a prescription from a physician to join Cruthird's gym are fully covered by BC/BS for their membership. To make fitness fun, she offers activities such as Dance Dance Revolution, Cateye Game Bikes, a boxing ring, dance classes and other activities. For adults, she offers Baby Boot Camp and step classes, and Cruthird herself teaches the majority of the classes. She has also recently launched a number of groundbreaking programs to combat childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.
"Our kids aren't exposed the way they should be. I wanted to create a world of fitness. Each of us is a fitness enthusiast," said Cruthird, a former Division 1 basketball player at James Madison University in Virginia who has always been a fitness enthusiast.
"When we launched the search for America's Next Fitness Star, we wanted to find an individual who would motivate people to be their best -- someone who demonstrates and believes, as I do, that fitness can be fun," said Jake Steinfeld in an announcement by the network. "Brandy is a fantastic health and fitness advocate who embodies that dynamic spirit, energy and commitment."