Charity walk steps towards a healthier lifestyle

By Courtney Klemm

The University is gearing up to promote an active lifestyle among the campus and community, kicking off a “Culture of Wellness” campaign with the first ever Walk for Wellness and an international walking conference Thursday and Friday.

The University teamed up with the American College of Sports Medicine to host the conference called “Walking for Health: Measurement and Research Issues and Challenges,” which will take place at the Illini Union. The Walk for Wellness is also part of the “Culture of Wellness” project and takes place Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on the Quad.

Registration for the walk begins at 11 a.m. Thursday.

“Only a small amount of the population is doing regular exercise,” said Weimo Zhu, chairman of the American College of Sports Medicine and University professor of kinesiology. “Walking is the most easy and safe exercise mode. We’re in a major push right now to encourage people to walk.”

More than 40 national and international researchers in health fields will be speaking at the conference, including Yashiro Hatano, known as the “Father of the 10,000 Steps a Day” in Japan and around the world, Zhu said. About 300 people are registered for the event, from as many as 18 different countries.

Lisa Burgoon, coordinator of the SportWell Center in the Intramural Physical Education building, said she anticipates more than 2,000 participants in the Walk for Wellness, and the first 2,000 will receive a bottle of water, mini-backpack and pedometer, which is worn to gauge the number of steps taken.

The pedometer has been very popular in recent months, Burgoon said. She hopes that those who receive one will continue to use it.

For research purposes, Burgoon asked one of her student employees, Gwen Zumwalt, senior in ACES, to wear a pedometer to calculate the amount of steps taken by students to and from certain landmarks on campus.

“It was very interesting to see how many steps I took in a day,” Zumwalt said. “As a college student, you walk a lot. Students should try to walk instead of take the bus. It’s really easy to gain weight in college, so it’s important to remain active for that reason.”

Walking accounted for only 8.6 percent of the total travel modes in 2001, according to the National Household Travel Survey. From 1977 to 1995, walking trips decreased from 9.3 percent to 5.5 percent. Walking has decreased greatly from even 50 years ago and too much transportation is based on automobiles, Zhu said.

“Loss of steps leads to health problems,” he said. “Walking five miles is typically a very healthy lifestyle. An overweight and obese population is a huge problem right now. Many people lead a very sedentary lifestyle: they drive from home to the office, sit at their desk all day, and then come home, cook very little and watch TV.”

Walking provides many beneficial aspects to a person’s life, Burgoon said.

“There are numerous health benefits in reducing high blood pressure, preventing diabetes and weight control, like avoiding the ‘Freshman 15,'” she said. “It also increases bone density and decreases stress. There are mental and emotional benefits as well.”

Tony Clements, co-chair for “Culture of Wellness” and director of Campus Recreation, said the campaign for wellness was started to help people become aware of their emotional and physical conditions as well as to exemplify a healthy lifestyle.

“The purpose was to start working with campus and showcase the dimensions of wellness and see how well campus was responding to it,” Clements said. “A healthier campus leads to a healthier community, and people have a higher sense of well-being. We want to create an environment conducive to that.”

As part of the University’s push for wellness, University officials offered to be part of the walk. Chancellor Richard Herman and his wife are going to be serving as Grand Marshals for the event. Also, Jesse Delia, acting Provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, is speaking before the start of the walk. University employees will also be given an extra 30 minutes at lunch to participate.

Support from the administrators of the University is thrilling, Burgoon said.

“From the top level, there is support for this ‘Culture of Wellness,'” she said. “Both (Delia and Herman) show that we have strong support of wellness from this community and its staff and students.”

The hope is that this event will set an example for the members of the campus community, Burgoon said.

“I think it is important because people will start getting the idea that campus is walkable,” she said. “Walking saves money and time, helps your health and well-being, and is easy, fast and inexpensive.”