Get in shape for charity

Mehmet Oz, M.D., and Michael Roizen, M.D.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., and Michael Roizen, M.D.

Want to lose weight and get into your very best shape this summer? We have a suggestion that will improve your health and make the world a better place at the same time.

What it takes: Make a commitment, along with at least one friend, to raise money for a charity or cause by accepting an athletic challenge that’s beyond what you can do now. It might be walking 3-6 miles, hiking up a mountain, doing a half-marathon, swimming 20 or more laps, or bicycling 25, 50, even 100 miles in a day.

Then, you (and a buddy or buddies) will let all your friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, etc., know (and ask them for donations) and notify the charity. That way, you’ve made an ironclad promise that makes sitting it out impossible. Tip: Make sure team members have separate pools of friends; you don’t want to double- or triple-team friends for donations.

If you start now to aim for a walk, run, bike ride, swim or even a triathlon sometime later in the summer or fall, you’ll have plenty of time to train and raise the targeted funds.

If you’ve never done a group athletic/fundraising event, we promise it’s incredibly gratifying. Real training is hard (running or walking when you don’t want to because it’s cold, dark or raining; discovering your true limits and then extending them). It calls for motivation. And knowing that you are doing it not just for you and your team, but for a truly worthy cause, well, that makes it so much easier to rise to the challenges, physically and psychologically.

Find a great cause: You can raise money for a school, a hospital building, a cure for cancer. HealthCorps or Dr. Mike’s Wellness Innovation Funds at the Cleveland Clinic would welcome your efforts! Breast cancer and blood cancer organizations have many charitable sporting events, as do diabetes and MS organizations — and you will make a difference.

Sign up and get support: Many of the health organizations that run fundraising athletic programs offer incredible support. For example, Team in Training provides teams, coaches, nutritional and hydration advice, and in some circumstances transportation to and lodging at events around the country. There’s a 5K “Moms in Training” run in Winnipeg, Ontario, hikes in Yosemite, a century bike ride (100 miles) around Lake Tahoe and many other kinds of challenges.

Such organizations often have a dinner where you meet some of the remarkable folks associated with the organization. Not only will that make you darn sure to complete the athletic challenge the next day, but you will never forget the moving stories.

Create your own charity event: After you’ve done a couple of organized events (the structure, the teams and the coaching really help), you can go out on your own! We have a friend who does an annual croquet tournament (participants train for it, too!) to benefit the Alpha One Foundation: It helps fund research into that orphan disease.

Perhaps you want to raise $10,000 for a local shelter and food kitchen and there’s a local 10K run on July 4. You can put together a “Firecracker” team of 10 people who will commit to raising $1,000 each.

Do your own “wild” thing: Golf pro J.J. Alexander hit 1,000 golf balls on the driving range of Lookout Golf Course near Pelham, Ontario, to raise money for a local woman who needed help with medical expenses. And Dr. Adrian Khera, founder of Doctors Dancing, raises money for Community Servings in Boston (they deliver meals to homebound people with life-threatening illnesses) and seven other charities by breakdancing on the street.

So get a jump on the fundraising season and plan your event now. You won’t believe how easy it is to get in shape when you have the goals of getting healthy and helping others.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit