Mayors Richard Stewart, Dianne Watts, Peter Fassbender and Bruce Banman prepare for the fitness challenge.

Mayors Richard Stewart, Dianne Watts, Peter Fassbender and Bruce Banman prepare for the fitness challenge.

Mayors get set to tackle fitness test

Dianne Watts (Surrey), Peter Fassbender (Langley City), Richard Stewart (Coquitlam) and Bruce Banman (Abbotsford) will take part in event

Four local mayors are willing to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk and then some in an effort to promote health and fitness throughout B.C.

Dianne Watts (Surrey), Peter Fassbender (Langley City), Richard Stewart (Coquitlam) and Bruce Banman (Abbotsford) signed up to take on the Healthy Community Challenge 2012.

The three-month venture – which encourages participants to get active and lead healthier lifestyles – doesn’t begin until next month, but it got an early boost Thursday morning when the four mayors met their personal trainers from Innovative Fitness and got their Body Mass Index (BMI) tested at a Langley gym.

The mayors said their fitness progress will be made public as they go along. Most are committed to work out with their trainers three times a week.

“Since my horse accident where I broke my back, I haven’t exercised at all,” said Watts, who broke two vertebrae while riding on vacation last July.

“This will give me an opportunity to really feel healthy again, to heal. When someone has a significant injury it can be a vicious cycle. You become lethargic because you aren’t active. I want to move on in a healthy direction.”

The Surrey mayor noted she has a “leg up” from her male colleagues.

“I don’t have a gut. The boys have belly fat,” she joked.

Banman didn’t dispute this, saying he’d like to see his abs again from this fitness challenge.

“I know they are in there somewhere. In 90 days you can do a lot. I turned the big ‘five-oh’ this year. What I do now will set the foundation for years to come.”

All four mayors agreed their busy work schedule is not only stressful but has them in front of desserts and fattening foods most days at meetings and banquets.

“We all have a very challenging lifestyle,” Fassbender said.

The Langley City mayor – a cancer survivor – is setting a goal to reduce the amount of diabetic medication he has to take.

“If we want to reduce health-care costs, it’s got to be about prevention,” he said.

Fassbender already takes the stairs at work and can be seen walking around downtown Langley as a way to stay fit.

Watts said she brings her own food to functions so she isn’t tempted to eat sweets.

Coquitlam’s Stewart – like Watts – is recovering from a serious accident.

Stewart was hit by a car while out campaigning on foot three months ago. Prior to that, he was in a crippling car crash eight years ago that left him with back injuries.

“I’m looking to build up my strength. I still feel the weight of Christmas time,” he said.

Coquitlam trainer Kris Schjelderup said he will work on Stewart’s range of motion, posture and body alignment.

Banman’s trainer plans to get the new Abby mayor in crampons – traction-improving footwear – to climb neighbouring Elk Mountain, which currently has nine feet of snow.

“Nothing worth having comes easy,” responded Banman, a chiropractor.

The community challenge is not simply about weight loss, either, said challenge founder Matt Young, Innovative Founder’s president.

While that may be the case for many who sign up, others may be training for athletic endeavours or – as in some of the mayors’ cases – rehabbing from injuries.

Young said organizers put the challenge to the mayors with the hope that their communities’ residents, and others from across B.C., will be inspired to take part.

Once registered, participants will have access through the website to all types of healthy living and fitness resources, and will also be able to track their fitness progress over the course of the program.

For each positive activity – which could range from simply remembering to eat breakfast to going for a walk after work – participants earn points. Those points are then added to a larger pool and sorted by the participants’ communities, in an effort to find which city has gained the most points.

Prizes will be awarded for the top individual point-getters, while other rewards will be handed out at random.

The Healthy Community Challenge begins March 12. To register, visit or watch for announcements on how to get your BMI and measurements recorded two days prior.

– with files from Monique Tamminga