Now in its sixth year, the Fittest Loser At Work Challenge is starting out strong with more than 325 participants, representing 59 unique businesses, many of which are new to the challenge.

Valentino Martini of Sculpture Hospitality in Bartlett weighs in as he takes part in the Fittest Loser At Work contest. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The first step toward a healthier future was to be weighed-in and receive a health assessment provided by Amita Health.

Contestants zipped through three full days of appointments at the Daily Herald with the help of hardworking Amita nurses, dietitians and doctors.

Nurse Ann Mathius from LaGrange Hospital takes the blood pressure from Fittest Loser At Work contestant John Brooks of Arlington Heights who works at Tempco Electric Heaters of Wood Dale. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

At the health assessment, each participant recorded his or her starting weight, as well as was tested for body fat, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and stroke risk level. Many people walked away with a better understanding of how to take control of their health.

Garry Lewis of the Power Plate company out of Northbrook shows Rogelio Gonzalez of Oakbrook and an employee at Marriott a great way to massage his legs as part of the Fittest Loser At Work contest. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

They also got to try out the Power Plate, one of our new sponsors this year. Power Plates increase strength and flexibility by using whole-body vibration.

Although this is just the start, some of the teams already have seen success.

New Dimensions from the Salvation Army has already lost 31.5 pounds and the competition has barely started.

"As a team, we are looking to lose one to two pounds a week, and create habits that will hopefully carry over past this contest," said Natalya Khasina, team captain.

Trabajando Para Quitarselo (Working to Lose It) from Tempco Electric Heater Corp in Wood Dale is hot on their heels with 28 pounds lost already.

"Our team plans on exercising regularly and controlling portions and less beer. At least for now!" said Chip Galante, team captain.

Tasha Anderson, Trish Stevens, Nancy Ramirez, and Sotero Ortiz workout with their team Tru-Fit of QT3 Systems. Photo courtesy of team Tru-Fit

Weight loss is only one goal, of course. Tru-Fit from QT3 Systems in Aurora wants to use this experience to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.

"Most of the team has never experienced anything like this before and jumped at the opportunity to not only learn, but feed off of everyone else for support," said team captain Quint Thompson. "Overall, most of them are choosing to be healthier rather than to lose weight which came as a surprise considering this a weight-loss challenge."

The Dwindling Divas, who represent the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, is also "pretty open to trying new things, said team captain Claudine Williams. "There have been many discussions regarding nutrition. We've also reviewed group activities walks, classes, yoga, etc. "

Elk Grove Strong, which represents the Elk Grove Fitness Pavilion, has lofty goals for this challenge -- of course being part of a fitness center certainly helps their cause.

"Our main goals are to obtain 10,000 steps each day. In addition to the steps, we are shooting for 30-60 minutes of extra workouts (consisting of cardiovascular training and/or strength training) 4-5 times a week," said Aileen Tischauser, team captain.

Most teams participating have five members, plus a team captain. Teams are given a long list of mostly free activities to participate in during the 12 weeks, provided by Daily Herald Media Group sponsors.

The winning team will be honored and awarded prizes at the Fittest Loser Finale on May 15.