Walk it out: Getting steps in improves mood, health

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

The practice of shaking your sillies out should be carried into college. College students exist in a perpetual state of sitting: from attending class to studying at the library to bingeing TV at home. Incorporating walking into an everyday routine benefits the mind, body and environment.

A trend among elementary schools have started promoting movement breaks during the school day. While primary schools have blocked out class periods for recess, college students enjoy the freedom of more flexible hours. Walks, which can be as short as five minutes, do not even require a pre-planned schedule.

Walks are arguably the most accessible form of escape and fitness. You can fit walking into your everyday routine by using the stairs rather than the elevator, getting off the Baylor Shuttle one stop earlier, taking a dog out or momentarily leaving your study spot to appreciate Baylor’s landscaping and architecture. Taking a friend with you can make it a fun social activity as well.

As a college student, friends often live within walking distance. College is the one time in your life that all of your friends likely live within a two mile radius. Instead of driving to meet up, take a walk to visit your pals.

Many establishments are within walking distance of campus. From the grease pit to Common Grounds and Shorty’s, there are multiple places to eat nearby. In fact, the distance from Moody Memorial Library to the grease pit is just half a mile — that’s only about 10 minutes of walking. Yet, most students choose to drive to get a snack from Raising Cane’s or In-n-Out. The walk to and from meals brings a certain justification to the calories just consumed. Opting to walk rather than drive to restaurants and coffee shops also benefits the environment. While the environmental impact of a mile or two does not seem like a lot, the average passenger vehicle emits about 404 grams of CO2 per mile.

Walking is a healthier option for both the environment and the body. Even just 30 minutes of walking a day has been correlated with increased cardiovascular, pulmonary, bone and muscle strength, reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and many other health benefits.

College students spend an average 3.5 hours each day studying. Although research shows that a change of surroundings helps memory retention, the tendency is to study in one place for an extended period of time. Taking short walks in between studying makes for productive study breaks, giving time for the brain to process material. Physical activity activates dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates attention, learning and even emotional responses.

An experiment on 128 college students showed that walking increased individuals’ propensity to perceive experiences in a positive way. In the middle of an overwhelming test week, a walk may just be the way to jumpstart a spirit of optimism.