“Exercise is Medicine” campus walk encourages accessible exercise

Wellness walk, 10/5/2018, Cook Carillon Tower.  GVL / Katherine Vasile

Wellness walk, 10/5/2018, Cook Carillon Tower.  GVL / Katherine Vasile

James Kilborn

This past Friday, Oct. 7, students and faculty celebrated the third annual “Exercise is Medicine” Campus Walk. The event worked to promote physical activity on campus and encouraged students to walk, run and ride bikes not only as a means of transportation, but as a healthy lifestyle choice that will yield benefits for a lifetime. 

Loren Rullman, Dean of Student Affairs, led the two-mile walk and saw the event as an opportunity to get students out of their cars and onto the miles of landscaped pathways that wind through the university. 

“With about 6,000 students living on (campus) and about that many (living) right next to the Allendale campus – along with thousands of students living close to the Pew Campus – this is truly a residential university in all the ways it is defined,” Rullman said. “Even so, GVSU encourages walking, biking and public transportation as a good alternative to driving. We are committed to creating beautiful walking paths and arranging for free use of the regional bus system because it is less expensive for students and contributes to our goals for a more sustainable university and earth.”

Amy Campbell, Associate Director of Student Recreation, said that GVSU’s push for physical activity on campus is part of a broader campaign from the American College of Sports Medicine and is geared towards ensuring students develop healthy habits that will remain long after they graduate. 

“The Exercise Is Medicine On-Campus (EIS-OC) is a national campaign supported by the American College of Sports Medicine,” Campbell said. “EIM-OC encourages faculty, staff and students to work together towards improving the health and well-being of the campus community by making movement a part of the daily campus culture, assessing physical activity at every student health visit, providing students with the tools necessary to strengthen healthy physical activity habits that can last a lifetime and connecting university health care providers with university health fitness specialists to provide a referral system for exercise prescription.”

Christopher Dondzila, Professor of Exercise Science, sees walking as an underrated yet extremely effective method of improving one’s physical health as well as their mental well-being. 

“Walking is one of the best things we can do to promote overall health,” Dondzila said. “This is because everyone can do it, it’s free and all ages and fitness levels get the benefits. From improving cardiorespiratory health, regulating metabolism and even improving mood and overall quality of life – walking provides all-encompassing benefits. We should aim to reach 10,000 steps day, which can be accrued throughout all daily activities.” 

GVSU’s trail system within the Grand River ravines offers students and faculty the opportunity to escape into nature, with pathways that cross babbling creeks and wind through oak and maple forests. Dondzila said he sees these on-campus trails as an asset, hoping students and staff use them to get exercise as well as experience nature. 

“Students should take advantage of the trails, woods and marked sidewalks to get around campus, explore or catch a study break by taking a leisurely stroll,” Dondzila said. “Students can implement small changes and break their routines by parking in a lot further away from their classes, getting off the bus at an earlier stop, taking the stairs (instead of the elevator) or even taking an extra lap around their building before class.”

Although GVSU’s campus is currently a pleasant place to walk, Rullman said he hopes that students voice their opinions in ensuring the university continues to be a place that encourages healthy modes of transportation. 

“If students are interested in creating a more walkable campus, there are student organizations committed to sustainability,” Rullman said. “Student Senate is always interested in student voice and student participation, university offices who manage transportation, facilities and campus grounds love students and love hearing from students.”

This past Friday’s campus walk serves as the first of many events geared towards improving campus health. Numerous events are scheduled for October, such as a campus dance party Oct. 10 at 8 p.m., a trip to Ludington Oct. 13 and a bouldering competition Oct. 20.