Athens, GA – One program is giving you the chance to exercise your way and learn about your state all at the same time. It’s called Walk Georgia, and with the help of Coca-Cola, they are fighting obesity one step at a time.

The program’s goal is to get exercise to be a normal routine in people’s lives. It did just that for participant Karen Kelley. She is pre-diabetic and she says she knew she had to do something. Kelley says that this program was a vital part in taking control of her diabetes. “It’s not out of control. I’m controlling it, it’s not controlling me…and I thank Walk Georgia for that.”

The program just received a grant from Coca-Cola for one million dollars over three years. Kathryn Schiliro, who works at their help desk, says they will use that money to give the six year old website a makeover. She says they will launch the “new” website in the Fall. The goal for Coke is to expand the program to reach 100,000 people and to decrease obesity by 5%. Right now, there are 2,000 people participating, with registration closing in five days.

Here’s how it works: the website allows you to take a virtual”walk” through Georgia, but you don’t actually have to walk. There are over 50 activities to choose from, including bowling, yoga, and racquetball. Your activity time is converted (by the website) into miles walked. Topping the list for most miles is running, walking, elliptical, and racquetball. When you log in, you put in your time of doing an exercise and it adds up your miles for that week, setting goals along the way. As they accumulate, you can choose which county to start your journey in and you’re on your way across the state. Each county has a “fact” when you pass through. All of this is shown on an interactive map on your account.

You can participate as a individual or as a team. For Karen Kelley, being on a team really motivated her to be more fit. She says it was all about competition because she wanted to beat teams from other counties. “I don’t think I would have started the way that if I had to do it by myself,” she says. Walk Georgia was how she got into fitness and last year, she traveled around 800 miles in total. For her, using the map was “amazing.” “Wow, we walked all those miles,” she says.

Emily Huskey is a personal trainer and she says it is possible to aim too high with your fitness goals. “You’re aiming for about 150 minutes a week if you’re just trying to if you’re just trying to meet the basic minimum physical fitness level,” she says. She also cautions that you do need rest days, no matter what.

Registration is open until March 10th and the last activities can be logged until the end of April. The program lasts for 12-weeks but with the new launch, Schiliro says it will become a year round program. For more information or to sign up go to walkgeorgia.org.

Alexa Knowles, reporting.

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