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Aggies: Walk this way

By Dave Jones on January 26, 2007 in University

Aggies On the Move are transforming the way they go about their daily lives.

They are parking farther from their offices. They are taking the long way around instead of shortcuts. They are taking the stairs.

Aggies On the Move also are transforming themselves. Like the guy in Human Resources who has lost 8 pounds and 2 inches off his waist.

Who are these Aggies On the Move? They are participants in a campus exercise program that began last fall, a program that urges faculty, staff and students to do nothing more than walk and walk some more. The number of people in the program exceeds 600, including nearly 30 who signed up at last week's quarterly kickoff, called the Winter Walkabout.

The lunchtime event in and around the Activities and Recreation Center included information and vendor tables, a motivational talk, plus a group walk led by Provost Virginia Hinshaw.

Aggies On the Move walk by themselves, with a colleague or two, or in larger, informal groups. They walk at lunchtime and on breaks, or before and after work, on campus and off.

Fit and healthy

Five-hundred steps here, 1,200 steps there, 6,500 or so if you walk all the way around the arboretum waterway. All these steps add up on the nifty little digital pedometers that you can buy when you register for Aggie On the Move.

Walk 250,000 steps and you get a prize: a water bottle clip for your belt. Walk 500,000 steps and you get a lip balm stick on a lanyard. Walk 750,000 steps and you get a pair of Aggies On the Move socks.

But the incentives are secondary. Because, for Aggies On the Move, the program is all about being fit and healthy.

Russ Marsh has been walking 13,000 to 14,000 steps almost every day since joining Aggies On the Move in early October — and has racked up more than 1 million steps. Marsh, a budget analyst in Human Resources, said he has lost 8 pounds (he is down to 160) and trimmed 2 inches from his waist (measuring 30 inches now).

With this kind of success, he said, "I don't have to worry so much about what I eat."

In fact, he skips lunch altogether, preferring to snack during the day, and uses his full lunch hour for walking. He also lifts weights and does aerobic exercise at home — and uses a formula to convert those efforts into steps, to add to his real walking steps. You can do the same thing for biking and swimming.

Marsh's colleague Sandie Lewis, a principal compensation analyst in Human Resources, has hit the 750,000-step milestone. She said she strives for 10,000 steps a day, split into two walks: one during a morning break and one at night with her dog.

She logs extra steps by doing routine things in different ways. "Like when I am bringing in the groceries," she said, "Instead of grabbing everything and making one trip, I will turn it into two trips."

"Wearing the pedometer makes you think about walking more," she said. She had her biggest day while on vacation recently at the Forbidden Palace in Beijing: 18,000 steps.

Marsh and Lewis were walking on campus even before joining Aggies On the Move. The organized program simply reinforces their regimens.

"Now it's more exciting because people are doing it all over campus," Lewis said. "Now there's a lot more people for me to walk with."

And even when you are not at work, she said, people are talking about it in the community.

While Marsh is content to walk by himself, Lewis likes company.

"It really helps to walk with other people," she said. "Even when I don't feel like walking, I have two colleagues standing at my desk, saying, 'It's time for our walk.' "

Jovita Ramos, who joined last week, said: "It's much, much better when you have a companion. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah!"

Ramos, a lab assistant in plant pathology, had been walking at lunchtime with a colleague, but she retired.

"I wanted to keep doing it for good health," said Ramos, who signed up with her plant pathology colleagues Guyla Yoak and Sukhwinder Kaur. The three said they planned to participate in Aggies On the Move group walks on Mondays.

Kaur, a research associate, said she enjoyed listening to the Winter Walkabout's featured speaker. Karey Zufelt, a physician, talked about the benefits of walking, and about how to stay motivated.

"You need to focus on the feelings you have after you finish your walk or run," said Zufelt, referring to strength, pride, confidence, achievement and a general sense of accomplishment.

Kaur agreed: "Those good feelings will keep you up for doing more."

Zufelt left her medical practice when she became a mom, and now shares her health and exercise expertise at RunningForWomen.com, working with a dietitian to help women get fit and lose weight.

"I used to be fat," Zufelt told her Winter Walkabout audience of about 50, as she held up a pair of size 14 jeans that she used to wear. Today she wears a 4 or 6.

The 5-foot-4 Zufelt said she weighed as much as 160 pounds as an undergraduate and medical school student at UC Davis. "I couldn't climb the stairs without huffing and puffing," she said.

She said she tried a lot of different diets without success, and eventually started walking. She mixed in running as she built up her strength and endurance — and today she continues to combine walking and running, even completing marathons and ultramarathons.

Zufelt said her newfound exercise regimen boosted her self-image and self-confidence, and altered her eating habits.

"When you start exercising, your food craving will naturally begin to change," she said. "Soon you crave a run (or a walk), not food."

She now weighs around 115, her blood pressure is down, her heart rate is down and her body mass index is down from 27.5 to a little over 20.

"It's not really about looking better, it's really about your health," Zufelt said. Walking and running "didn't change my life. It saved it."

Information

Aggies On the Move registration is conducted year-round. Go to the Wellness Center in the Activities and Recreation Center, or contact the center by telephone at (530) 754-2179 or e-mail, wellnesscenter@ucdavis.edu. Participants are invited to buy kits with pedometers and logbooks; the price is $5 for faculty, staff and students, or $12 for family and friends.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556, dljones@ucdavis.edu

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