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American Today


AU Walking Challenge Reaches New Haven

By Sally Acharya

Pedometers at belt

(Photo: Jeff Watts)

What does AU have that Yale wants?

AU loyalists could list a lot of things, but there’s one thing that’s particularly hip. Or, more accurately, on the hip.

We’re talking about the pedometer that nearly a third of AU faculty and staff are wearing these days – sometimes even as far from Washington as New Haven, Connecticut, where a college reunion couldn’t stop Pedometer Challenge participants from keeping up their efforts to move, move, move.

Several American University faculty members ran into each other at the Yale event and greeted each other in the way that’s becoming the fashion on campus: by pointing to the little black accessories labeled “A Healthy U” on their waistbands and chatting about their daily walks.

Chances are, “if any two AU people get together these days, the pedometer comes out,” said School of Public Affairs associate dean Meg Weekes said.

Weekes and math professor Franny Van Dyke ended up with an admiring throng of academics from around the country praising AU. “They all said, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. What a progressive university,” Weekes said. “We got a lot of points for being more forward-thinking than most.”   

Those pedometers are indeed causing a buzz, though most of it is closer to home. About 630 faculty and staff members are participating in the two-month challenge to walk, run, or otherwise exercise their way to greater fitness.

 The pedometer challenge pits team against team, but ultimately, it’s about spurring individuals to push themselves just a bit more than they might have otherwise. And it’s working.

Not only have a surprising number of AU staff and faculty hooked on pedometers and joined teams for the summer fitness challenge, but they’re also walking farther each day than expected.

“The total has been a lot higher than we anticipated, which is really exciting,” says health promotion manager Amy Farr, who is coordinating the challenge.

Teams are averaging between 60,000 and 70,000 steps a day, which is just under five miles per person. Four teams have even broken the 100,000 steps-a-day mark. The leader so far is the Feet and the Furious, a trio of staffers from the University Center who managed to average more than 130,000 steps a day for two weeks in a row.

The other early high steppers are AU Abroad’s team Walk Around the World, Team Awesome in Human Resources, and a team from the University Library calling itself the Angel-Headed Hipsters.

Weekes, who is on a team called SIN, which stands for Strength in Numbers, is averaging around 10,000 steps a day. “Sometimes I go out and walk up and down the street five times,” she laughs. “I find on days that I don’t do it, I really notice it. It’s been really good. So thank you, AU.”