Just by putting one foot in front of the other, University of Miami students can simultaneously lose weight, help the environment and invest in lifelong wellness.
Launched two years ago by the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, Walking Counts is a campaign challenging students and other members of the university community to get moving.
“More and more research is showing that it’s the daily activities, like not complaining about parking far away and just enjoying the walk, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, that contribute to your well-being,” said Ashley Falcon, assistant director at the Wellness Center. “We want to get more people active.”
As part of the Walking Counts campaign, signs posted at shuttle stops and various locations around campus inform students of the number of steps, calories burned and approximate walking time to spots on campus.
Wellness Center employees used GPS technology to measure mileage based on a 3.3 mile-per-hour pace and entered the information into a database. They then used simple calculations to find the calories burned and walking time to each location.
“The whole Walking Counts campaign is encouraging people to walk in between classes,” said Tony Musto, a certified exercise specialist and associate director for fitness at the Wellness Center. “You have to get from point A to point B anyway, so why not use that time wisely, incorporate some activity and get some health benefits?”
Sophomore Blake Priddy views walking as a part of his daily exercise and believes it to be an important part of his health.
“It’s good cardio and it helps burn fat,” Priddy said. “About 2,000 steps is a mile and those are calories that you help burn off basically just doing what you do every day.”
For Priddy, a normal day includes trips from Mahoney Residential College to the Cox Science Center, Fred C. and Helen Donn Flipse Building and the Whitten Learning Center.
By entering Priddy’s daily route into the Wellness Center’s online Walking Counts Calculator, it computes that he burns approximately 370 calories and walks 3.7 miles each day.
Priddy said he thought he only walked about two miles per day and burned just 150 calories. Similarly, many students might underestimate their physical activity and be unaware of how a simple walk to class can affect their fitness.
According to Musto, 30 minutes of cumulative activity five times per week is enough to reap the health benefits of physical activity.
“If someone really wants to manage their weight, they’re going to have to do more,” Musto said. “Basically weight loss is a matter of burning more calories than you eat. So obviously walking from the University Village to the Merrick building is going to take more calories than sitting at the shuttle stop.”
Walking in lieu of taking a shuttle is not only more healthful for students, but a benefit to the environment and a way for the university to cut costs.
“The buses burn off carbon emissions and they add to traffic,” said Richard Sobaram, the director of parking and transportation services. “The more we can remove buses from the fleet, the better it is for us not only environmentally, but in overall costs to the university.”
The ‘Hurry’Cane shuttles each cost between $120,000 to $150,000 to operate, adding up to a total of $1-2 million each year in direct costs.
Sobaram recalled some of his own childhood memories of walking.
“As a kid, we used to walk everywhere; I was never this fat,” he said. “You never thought about it, you just went through your daily routine and walked off 2,000 calories.
Sobaram added, “now with Walking Counts, you can actually incorporate it into your daily routine and it just becomes a part of you.”