To improve fitness and fight obesity Maryland residents will be strapping on pedometers this spring. The University of Maryland Medical Center and School of Medicine and Merritt Athletic Clubs are launching the 12-week program, "Get Fit Maryland," that includes prize incentives, seminars on weight loss and fitness, health screenings, and free 30-memberships to Merritt Health Clubs. The program officially kicks off April 29, and participants will start counting their steps May 1.

With the average American only taking 900 to 3,000 steps a day, the program is trying to increase that number to 10,000 by giving participants ideas on fitting more activity into their everyday lives. For those who'd rather bike or swim, the program shows participants how to convert their exercise into their daily step count.

"Our goal is to show people that by making relatively small changes from an inactive lifestyle to one that includes moderate but regular physical activity, even the most sedentary individual can prevent cardiovascular disease and improve the quality of their life," Terry Dezzutti, chief operating officer of Merritt Athletic Clubs, said in a release. "Overall, we hope to have 5,000 Marylanders counting their steps."

For an $8 registration fee participants receive a pedometer, steps log book, "Get Fit Maryland" shoelaces, magnet, pen, health screening assessment, 30-day free membership to Merritt Athletic Clubs and seminar schedule. There is also an employer program where participating companies can have their employees register for $5. For more information, visit www.getfitmaryland.com.

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