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Big feat on foot

September 7, 2009

AHS Communications

Over the course of six months, 67-year-old Everett Blain logged enough steps to have walked from his home in Carstairs, north of Calgary, to Vancouver.

The resident of Chinook Winds Lodge, a long-term care facility in Carstairs, notched 899.95 km in the Walk for the Health Of It, a partnership project between the Town of Carstairs and Alberta Health Services' Community Stroke Prevention project.

"Everett just makes walking part of his everyday life," says Teree Hokanson, Rural Health Promotion Strategist for Alberta Health Services. "We thought that tied in really well with the message we want to give to people. They don't have to drive. You can walk everywhere you need to in Carstairs. We want to encourage those simple changes that really are sustainable."

Hokanson is the AHS representative on Carstairs Connection, a coalition dedicated to upholding the town's Healthy Community designation.

Blain, who tracked the kilometres he walked on the town's website, finished third in the contest, less than 100 km behind the winner. "I just like to walk," says the quick-to-smile senior. "I like the outside and the fresh air."

Blain walks the four blocks to the post office five days a week to drop off and pick up the mail for his fellow residents. He also takes a daily lap around the picturesque path that meanders through Memorial Park. In the winter, he keeps walking outside and adds a weekly jaunt to the curling rink where he plays in a seniors' league. Only a downpour or blizzard will keep him from his daily stroll.

"We've done a community-wide stroke knowledge and awareness survey of our understanding and knowledge about strokes and what the barriers are that people face in regards to active living," says Hokanson. The two key barriers to active living were motivation and time.

The town installed an elevated, rubberized running track that circles the ice surface at the arena to encourage people who use the arena to use the track.

"There are hockey parents who are sitting watching the kids play, but aren't using the track. We wanted to try and encourage those people who have access and opportunity, but aren't necessarily doing it.

"We recognize that there are lots of factors that affect motivation but we knew we could do something about time," she says, referring to the extra time the grand prize $200 house cleaning certificate would give the winner. "For a hockey mom that's pretty attractive."

Blain doesn't need any incentives to walk. Aside from the fresh air and exercise, he enjoys stopping to chat with friends along his route. He has friends that he doesn't even know.

One recent Christmas a little girl came out of her house and gave him a small gift.

"She said she knew me because I walked by her house every day," says Blain with a big smile.