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Participation Steps Up for University's Walk Across Campus Program

06/19/13
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Participants in this spring's "Walk Across Campus" program looked at results during a celebration held earlier this month in the Flynn Recreation Complex. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: June 19, 2013

Louis Maillet, a mechanic in the Boston College Electrical Shop, figured he would get a few benefits from taking part in the University’s “Walk Across Campus” program.

“I thought it would be good for me, of course, but also interesting to see how far I walk every day,” he said, “and that it would be fun to have a little friendly competition with the other people taking part in the program — just a little something to liven up your workday.”

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What Maillet didn’t anticipate was how much participating in the two-month walking/activity campaign — organized by BC as part of its HEALTHY YOU employee health and wellness initiative — would influence other parts of his life.

“It made me more aware, more conscientious about walking in general,” he explained. “For example, if I had to go pick up some materials or tools to do a job, in the past I would probably just drive the van there and back. But now, I walk it.

“Even at home, I started to find ways I could do more walking — instead of just opening the door and letting our dog out into the yard, we’d go on a walk together. It’s been a great experience.”

Maillet was among hundreds of BC employees who gathered at the Flynn Recreation Complex on June 7 to celebrate the end of the Walk Across Campus spring semester. The program began as an individual event several years ago through Campus Recreation and last fall was incorporated into HEALTHY YOU. Participants, who each receive a Fitbit pedometer to track their progress, form teams to provide one another with support and encouragement.

Almost 1,200 employees on 67 teams were involved in Walk Across Campus this spring; last fall, the numbers were 855 and 55.

“Walk Across Campus has been a success in so many ways,” said Associate Vice President for Human Resources Robert Lewis at the June 7 celebration, as attendees lined up for their commemorative Walk Across Campus towels, dined on burgers (turkey and veggie burgers as well as hamburgers were available), salads and other food, and enjoyed ladder golf and other games.

“The benefits of walking and related activities — even for just a short time each day — are well-known, of course. But it seems the program goes beyond the physical benefits: People are developing a real sense of camaraderie — they see the Fitbit and have an instant connection — and that is healthy in and of itself.”

Senior Information Security Analyst Jamie John agreed. “Working in IT means we’re at our desks most every day, so obviously it’s important to get up and out, and do some exercise. But I joined for the people aspect. It was a good opportunity to get to know other BC employees you probably wouldn’t meet otherwise. It just helps make BC an even better place in which to work.”

Lewis pointed to several statistics to underscore the impact and scope of Walk Across Campus at BC:

• Walk Across Campus spring 2013 participants took a combined 512,721,641 steps over the course of the program, 17 percent more than in the fall.

• Walkers collectively traveled 230,222.4 miles — equivalent to walking the circumference of the Earth almost 30 times, and nearly enough to reach the moon.

• Participants climbed 117,766 flights of stairs, which at 10 feet per flight equates to a height of about 1,916 miles — or the outer part of the Earth’s atmosphere.  

“More to the point, Walk Across Campus racked up 15,746,806 active minutes,” said Lewis. “According to the American Heart Association, for every hour of regular vigorous exercise – like walking — adults may gain as many as two hours of life expectancy. According to our active minutes, we may have added 524,893 hours to our collected life expectancy.”