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Fort St. John counts steps in the right direction

Northern community takes up fitness challenge, shows support for 2010 Olympics



Steve Thorlakson, mayor of Fort St. John, has almost walked to Whistler from his city more than 1,400 kilometres away.

With 1,200 kilometres under his belt, Thorlakson is well on his way. But he doesn’t intend to stop here.

In fact, he won’t even be here at all.

The mayor of Fort St. John is on a virtual walk, one where he keeps track of all his steps on a pedometer. He then logs his progress online.

"The premier had issued the challenge for British Columbians to increase their fitness and one of the best low-impact ways is walking," explained Thorlakson, from his Fort St. John office this week.

"So we decided amongst ourselves that we would pick up the challenge and where better to virtually walk than to Whistler."

Thorlakson is one of 400 people who have taken up the Web-based Walk to Whistler challenge, where they log all their steps, be it from the office to a meeting room or on a round of golf.

The online calculator records their progress from their own community to Whistler.

The program is Fort St. John’s way of showing support for the 2010 Olympics. It’s also part of an Active Living Strategy.

"We used to be amongst the fittest people in the world and Canadians generally have not exactly been up to snuff, so this is a good step, you bet," said the mayor.

Since he started four months ago, Thorlakson has increased his average daily walking distance from six kilometres to eight or nine.

His trick is simple.

"I actually convinced my doctor to write me a prescription that required me to golf 18 holes every day – I kid you not," he said.

"I was on the golf course this morning. And it’s a good measure to me as well – the fewer steps that I take during a round of golf, the better I’m golfing!"

In addition to improving his golf game, the mayor has shed a few pounds and managed to tone up.

"You know how all these buff young guys are bragging about having a six pack? Well, I used to have kind of a spongy keg. And it’s now down to a 12 pack and it’s a firmer 12-pack."

Though more than half of the participants to date are from Fort St. John, people as far afield as Toronto, Edmonton and Iqaluit have also signed up.

Free pedometers have been sent to every B.C. mayor and the chairs of each regional district in the province.

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