FitFest aims to raise energy level

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

There’s something about physical activity that breaks you out of hamster wheel-like-thinking and makes your mind feel refreshed. It also alleviates stress, improves self-esteem and reduces the odds against developing all kinds of serious illnesses.

For women and girls in particular, “physical inactivity and poor diet together have become the second leading cause of preventable death after smoking in the U.S.,” said Lisa Braithwaite, executive director of Body Electric, which will hold its annual Women’s FitFest 2005 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 26 at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Braithwaite said she wasn’t an athlete growing up, but in her junior year at Cate School she was required to play sports.

“I learned how to play basketball and I learned how to throw the discus and the shot put. It was totally great,” she said.

Years later, while working at Shelter Services for Women and Girls Inc., Braithwaite got caught up watching the women’s NCAA basketball tournament on TV.

“I just was blown away by just the level of athleticism that women had come to. I had no idea. … I sort of had this epiphany, I was already working in domestic violence and spent all of my time talking to teenage girls about healthy relationships and body image issues and what our society tells girls they should be … I had never really made the connection with sports,” she said.

She had the epiphany in 1997 and went on to found Body Electric –with co-founder Brenda Britsch and their friends, Kira Anthofer, Ginny Benson, Jana Johnston and Kim Reese — based on the common goal of educating Santa Barbara girls and women about the benefits of physical fitness. “(Physical activity) makes you feel good,” said Braithwaite, whose group also advocates for gender equity in addition for providing opportunities for physical challenge.

“We’re here to encourage women and girls to adopt physical activity in ways that work for them, and to help break down the barriers that keep many of us from achieving our goals,” she said.

Time — including commitments to work and children — money, and body image are the barriers that keep most women from working up a healthy sweat.

But Body Electric is helping to change that attitude by building awareness of just how much fun sports can be at its free annual sports/health/fitness fair, which will feature sports clinics and demonstrations, exhibits from local businesses and nonprofit organizations, a scavenger hunt and a raffle.

Activities and demonstrations will include a climbing wall, body fat analysis, dancing, martial arts, belly dancing and gymnastics, with interactive exhibits from Mark French basketball summer camps, Real Living Nutrition Services, Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club, Titan Sports Performance, One Legacy, and other health, sport and fitness organizations.

For more information about the Women’s FitFest and other fitness activities,

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 17, 2005.