Winter walk aids health, well-being

By Emily Sokolik

The Winter Walking Program kicked off its first walk around the Quad on Friday.

“The goal (of the program) is to keep people active during the winter months and to provide structure for people who don’t like to work out,” said Jennifer Scott, graduate assistant at Sportwell and facilitator of the Winter Walking Program.

The Sportwell Center, the sponsor of the program, is a division of McKinley Health Center’s Health Education Unit, which offers services in sports nutrition, fitness and athletic injury prevention and treatment.

Every Friday at noon, participants meet for a fitness education session and a walk around campus. The program consists of four sessions with a new fitness topic and walking route every week, Scott said.

“This week we are focusing on winter walking safety tips and next week we will discuss current guidelines for physical activity.”

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The idea for the Winter Walking Program came from Walk Across Illinois, “a new year-long health initiative designed to encourage Illinois residents to walk at least 167 miles, the equivalent of walking across Illinois from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan,” according to the Walk Across Illinois Web site.

Liqun Huang, a University alumna, attended the first session of the program to get in shape.

“During the winter, people usually watch TV and it’s a bad time for exercising,” she said. “I live far from the gym, but I like to walk and go to a nearby park.”

All participants present at the first meeting of the program received a free pedometer. A special bonus prize is awarded to those who attend all four sessions, Scott said.

The recommended amount of physical activity is 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week, according to the American Heart Association.

“Our walks last no more than a half an hour and are important for (fitness) maintenance,” Scott said.

The Winter Walking Program concludes March 10, but Scott has plans to continue with more sessions, depending on interest.

“We’re going to try this out and see how it goes,” she said.