With a determined look and a protein shake in hand, Cari Schaeffler walked to the Rhodes House alongside students who were headed to class.
Schaeffler, the receptionist at the Office of Financial Assistance Services, has always enjoyed physical activity, and this year she is participating in the Walking Canes program sponsored by the Wellness Center.
“Seeing students walking around campus motivates me,” Schaeffler said. “It makes you want to be more aware of your health and physical well-being.”
The Walking Canes is a 10,000-step-a-day program that uses a pedometer to help participants quantify their physical activity on a daily basis.
It costs $10 to participate. The program is open to UM faculty and staff, but Thursday is the deadline for signing up.
UM employees can register in person at the center’s Wellness Enrichment Suite from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., or at the Medical Wellness Center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Schaeffler said she is excited to participate a second time and is determined to complete the program, something that eluded her the previous year.
“Last year I sometimes forgot to log in my steps,” she said. “But I kept going at it. I knew I was walking and challenging myself.”
The program lasts for 12 weeks, and holds each participant accountable for tallying the number of steps they accumulate by requiring them to check in online every Monday.
Each participant is encouraged to wear the pedometer from the time they wake up until they go to sleep.
One goal is to try and increase the number of steps each day.
“It’s a good way to get in shape and exercise,” Schaeffler said. “You feel better about yourself – physically and emotionally.”
Tony Musto, associate director of fitness programs at the Wellness Center, initiated the program in the spring of 2005 to help educate UM employees about becoming more active.
“You can be a physically active person without rigorously working out,” he said. “Most people don’t know that.”
Sue Rundlett, an administrative assistant at the Office of Financial Assistance Services, participated in Walking Canes for two years.
“I love that UM offers a program like it,” she said. “I feel proud that I stuck with it and didn’t give up.”
To meet her daily goal, Rundlett said she parked in Ponce Garage and purposely walked up and down the stairs at the BankUnited Center every day before coming to work.
To keep participants motivated, Musto says he tries to equate the steps taken to fun facts, such as calories burned per step.
When asked if weather affected the program, Musto said, “It is for people who count on walking outside, but the point is to be creative about it.”
The Kaiser Foundation donated $10,000 to help the program get off the ground in 2005, Musto said.
“Your overall wellness matters,” President Donna E. Shalala said. “The university’s philosophy of wellness embraces the whole you. We are passionate about providing all of you with opportunities to reach your potential.”
This semester, the top 10 walkers will be treated to a Chartwells-sponsored lunch at the Faculty Club with Shalala.
The winners will receive a free, plan-ahead ticket on American Airlines, or two floor seats to an event at the BankUnited Center.