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How the People of AU Are Walking Their Way to Health

Photo: staff playing volleyball for pedometer challenge

Graphic designer Maria Jackson boosts her pedometer mileage by playing volleyball with team members (Photo: Katie Neff)

 Can you walk enough to circle the earth six times? How about if you do it with friends and count your miles together?

The people of AU will be doing just that if they meet the goals of this summer’s Pedometer Challenge, which started this week. The goal is to kick personal fitness up a notch by aiming for 10,000 steps a day, the rough equivalent of five miles.

And yes, if all the 500-odd participants manage 10,000 steps a day for the next two months, they will have logged enough combined mileage to circumnavigate the globe six times. On an individual basis, it will be like hiking from campus to Youngstown, Ohio. Or to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and then doing a lot of swimming.

More than 60 teams have sprung up across campus, each dedicated to hitting the pavements, or the treadmills or rowing machines or tennis courts, until they register as many steps as possible.

The average American takes under 3,000 steps a day, or not quite 1.5 miles, according to one study. “Ten thousand steps is a great goal for people who are fairly active,” says Amy Farr, health promotion manager at Human Resources. “For people who are generally sedentary, it’s hard to reach if you’re not doing a lot already. Time is such a huge barrier for so many people.”

But she’s hoping the contest will be the incentive people need to make a few changes that can add up over the course of the day, from taking a walk during the lunch hour to using the stairs rather than the elevator to strolling around the block at home instead of relaxing with a bag of chips.

Activities other than walking also count for the contest. There’s a conversion chart in the material handed out with personal pedometers that tells people how many steps to count for activities where the pedometer can’t be worn, like swimming. It even gives equivalents for everyday activities like gardening and waxing the car.

Participants are logging their daily steps in booklets handed out with the pedometers and will report them to team captains. At the end of the contest, the winning teams and individuals will get prizes. But the real prize will be the fitness that comes with taking the challenge, and the realization that healthier living can begin with a few steps.