Steps help students keep in shape

By Rachel Bass

Eat too many cookies at lunch? Have three scoops of ice cream? Skipped going to the gym this week? Rest assured, says University extension specialist Robin Orr – just walk to class.

“Walking is simple and easy,” Orr said. “You don’t need special equipment and there’s little risk. Walk with your spouse and solve marital problems, walk with your kids. It can help develop good habits early on.”

Orr, who is involved in a statewide committee on obesity, said that as an educator, she has to practice what she preaches.

“No one believes us unless we’re doing stuff,” Orr said.

As a result, Orr and other extension educators helped organize a walking program called Walk Around Illinois – a program where people literally walk across the entire state. Using string and pushpins, Orr and her colleagues visited every county in Illinois and determined that a person who walked around the state would have traveled 1,321 miles, 6,974,880 feet and 2,789,952 steps.

Orr used the same materials to determine how many steps a person would have to take in order to walk off such foods as funnel cakes.

Funnel cakes, for example, have 2,600 calories. Orr said a person would have to take approximately 13,000 steps in order to walk it off.

“The average student walks about three miles in a day between classes and home, or 6,000 steps,” Orr said. “As you get more into your major, you’ll probably walk less since your classes are close together, so freshmen probably walk the most.”

Kinesiology professor Rob Motl agreed and said that in order for students to expend calories, their muscles must contract. Little things such as walking do add up.

“Instead of taking the bus to campus, walk. Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs,” Motl said.

Ann-Marie Dunlap, sophomore in LAS, walks to class the majority of the time and said she feels lazy when she takes the bus.

“The school environment is so different,” Dunlap said. “At home you can drive all over, but here you’re in your room playing games or relaxing so the little things like walking to class definitely add up.”

Despite the proliferation of fad diets and quick weight loss programs in recent years, Orr and Motl said the only real way to get healthy is the old-fashioned way – exercising and eating correctly.

“A person can be healthy at any weight,” Orr said. “Some people will lose weight walking, some won’t. A person just has to eat balanced, nutritious meals.”

Orr also cautioned about eliminating a certain type of food group.

“We can’t infringe on people’s rights,” Orr said. “We can’t have the food police telling us what we can and cannot eat. We have to leave the choice up to people and they need to hold themselves personally responsible.”