City employees are competing to see who can drop the most pounds for the City of Aiken's second Summer Weight Loss Challenge. Lauren Harris, the City employee health nurse, said the contest is a part of the City's wellness program, which is held in partnership with Aiken Regional Medical Centers. The weight-loss challenge will officially kick off Wednesday and continue through July 29. For the competition, employees must agree to burn 500 calories each day through dieting and by increasing their daily exercise regimes. Employees will be weighed in periodically to track their weight loss, Harris said. City workers who participate in the challenge compete individually and with department teams. Prizes will be awarded to the team that loses the most pounds as a whole. The person who loses the most pounds will also win a prize. During last year's challenge, Aiken Public Safety employees took the title. "We're very excited about this year to see who can challenge Public Safety," Harris said. "We lost a lot of weight last year. Most of the participants that lose weight don't gain it back." In the future, Harris said the City would like to extend the weight-loss challenge to employees at other businesses in the community. "It helps (employees) think of all the risk factors and modify them," she said. Since the City introduced its wellness program several years ago, there has been a reduction of sick days taken by employees, Harris said. The City's insurance costs have also decreased, and City health officials have noticed that employees' blood pressure has gone down, she said. "Obesity contributes to so many heath factors such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and many other conditions," Harris said. "We feel that if we can help employees reach a healthy weight goal, we can prevent many of the diseases caused by obesity and effects of diseases." Contact April Bailey at abailey@aikenstandard.com.