By Mike Emery
Houstonians are being encouraged to take the necessary steps (no pun intended) toward living longer and healthier lives. University of Houston Population Health in collaboration with Fit Houston and the Texas Heart Institute have teamed up for #Walk30, a campaign promoting the benefits of 30 minutes of walking or exercising daily.
Experts have long advocated walking for half an hour daily for improved cardiovascular health, strengthened cognition, weight loss and reduced stress among other benefits. At UH, faculty, staff, students and visitors can easily satisfy this half-hour prescription for wellness by simply exploring the campus. These maps provided by UH Human Resources can serve as guides and help campus community members monitor how far they have walked.
Walking is a vastly underrated form of exercise, said Quinn Valier, director of Student Engagement for UH Population Health and research associate professor in the Honors College. Every step matters. Even more important is that people are mindful to take a mindful walk free from work, electronic devices or stress.
“We think that we need to rush between classes or meetings,” Valier said. “It is important to carve out time for walks that take our minds off the day-to-day grind. Simply paying attention to our minds and our bodies and taking a 30-minute walk … or even several short walks a day … can have so many health benefits.”
Valier and other UH Population Health team members helped kick off #Walk30 on campus during a recent event in Lynn Eusan Park. In attendance were other institutional partners, including UH Human Resources POWER UP, UH Campus Recreation and UH Wellness. Representatives from Fit Houston also were on hand to encourage the commitments of 30 minutes of walk time from the Cougar community.
According to Lharissa Jacobs, founder and executive director of Fit Houston, the inspiration for #Walk30 came from recent data reflecting the physical activity of Houstonians. The Harris Cares report produced by Harris County Public Health mapped health conditions across the area. Physical activity also was included in the report’s data.
“Based on this data, we realized that people in Harris County are not getting the amount of exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, which is 150 minutes each week,” Jacobs said. “That’s when we came up with the idea of encouraging people to walk 30 minutes a day.”
In a short time, the campaign has its fair share of influential supporters, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and UH President Renu Khator.
“At UH, our mission is to transform lives and communities,” Khator said in a recent video promoting the initiative. “Improved health is one of the strongest ways we can reach our goal.”
UH Population Health will continue to engage with campus partners to support this very goal and to further promote #Walk30. According to Valier, initiatives such as this complement UH Population Health’s cross-disciplinary approach to health and wellness.
“UH Population Health touches so many areas of our campus and our external community,” Valier said. “It’s not just medicine or health care. Our outreach impacts the arts, the social sciences, our students and so much more. We hope to reach even more stakeholders through both #Walk30 and future projects.”