Fitness challenge pits communities against each other in the race for fittest city

Published: Thursday, Aug. 4 2011 10:58 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon makes his way up a climbing wall on Thursday as part of a challenge with Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall and to promote physical fitness.

Stuart Johnson, Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is doing something ambitious — and attempting to climb the 45-foot indoor rock climbing wall at the local rec center on Thursday was not it.

As an attempt to become the fittest county in the country, Corroon is asking at least half of the county's more than 1 million residents to make a pledge "to do something to lead a healthy and fit life."

"We've all got a little weight to lose," he said, adding that it doesn't have to be hard. "You can commit to taking the stairs more often, walk the kids to school, park further away at the grocery store, start a walking club with your neighbors or visit any one of the available recreation centers throughout the county."

The Commit To Be Fit campaign hopes to slenderize the county's 58.3 percent of overweight and obese residents and motivate the 43.5 percent who say they are not adequately physically active.

"We're a very healthy state. We're the 6th least obese state in the country. We have the lowest smoking rates of anywhere, but only half of our adults are physically active," said Salt Lake Valley Health Department Director Gary Edwards. He said the county's obesity rating has bulged 90 percent over the past 15 years, to a point that is "not acceptable."

Edwards also said that, according to a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, 78 percent of the state's residents don't eat the recommended number of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

"Moderate physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of many diseases and health conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and some cancers," he said. Lowering the state's obesity rate will also cut down medical costs.

In 2009, Salt Lake City earned a recognition from Men's Health magazine of being the "fittest city" in the nation. Utah's capital city dropped to 5th place in this year's ranking under the same criteria.

"Obviously there is work to be done," Corroon said.

Officials are asking residents to visit www.slfit.org and sign up to be part of the county's fitness craze, committing to be more active. There might even be a prize or two in it.

Corroon, who didn't quite make it to the top of the rock climbing wall, said he promised to play ice hockey at least once each month. It's his favorite sport.

Like the mayors and Edwards, who were challenged to climb the wall on Thursday, cities within the county will be pitted against each other — a bit of healthy competition — in the race for the fittest city and progress will be shown online throughout the challenge. The community with the highest percentage of residents who "Commit To Be Fit" will get bragging rights as the fittest community in the county.

"Doing things that are good for your body helps us all," said Taylorsville City Mayor Russ Wall, who made it to the top in just under a minute-and-a-half.

Edwards made it to the top in one minute, 46 seconds, while 61-year-old Murray Mayor Dan Snarr, who said he already works out every day, scurried to the top of the wall in just 45 seconds.

"We're not saying everybody should be climbing rock walls," Wall said. "We just want everyone to do something to be more healthy."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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