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VAKULSKAS: The underrated benefit of campus life: Walking

Students+walking+near+the+library.
Students walking near the library.

Students walking near the library.

Photo by Wire stock photo

Photo by Wire stock photo

Students walking near the library.

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One recent summer morning I woke and, feeling a disturbance in the force, I realized the time had come to turn my calendar to August. This month ushers in the frenzy of school shopping, reuniting with friends and moving your entire life into a much smaller space. There are ups and downs, of course, but something I’m particularly looking forward to is an underrated benefit of college: walking.

After spending my summer in isolated suburbia with friends only reachable by car, I’ve come to appreciate the closeness of campus life. Here, everything is in reach. I can leave my room 10 minutes before I need to be somewhere, and friends are just a short jaunt away. What’s more, I actually feel the need to get in shape for school. When I looked at the health app on my phone and saw how my number of steps had plummeted in the month of May, I knew I was in trouble. I was surprised to find that I was much less active during the summer than I was here at Marquette.

It’s easy to forget how much walking we do as students, especially if your residence hall or apartment is far away from most of your classes. Throw in all those flights of stairs and the occasional dash back for a forgotten school assignment, and you’ve got yourself a workout!

Milwaukee itself is great to experience on foot, too. It’s hard to appreciate the quaint shops and historic architecture when rushing by in a car or bus. Walking offers a chance to immerse yourself in the city and allows you to be active.

Fortunately, walking is the kind of exercise I can get behind. I’ve never been much of a runner, but I can walk for miles. Sure, it might not be fun to spend so much time lugging books around, especially in those frigid winter months, but we are lucky to have such a walkable campus. Students at larger universities, such as University of Wisconsin-Madison, are forced to take long crowded bus rides to class in the morning.

Mayo Clinic medical research highlights many physical benefits of walking, including weight maintenance, muscle strengthening and preventative care (chiefly when you do that brisk, might-not-make-it-to-my-8-a.m.-lecture-in-time trot).

It is also no secret that walking can boost your mood and clear your mind. If you can be in the great outdoors and walk with your own two legs, then you are very lucky indeed. It can be meditative as well; try it as a stress-relief technique when the homework starts piling up. I encourage you, if you find yourself walking alone, to take those 10 or 15 minutes between classes to unplug, be present and give your mind a break.

It can also be a great social activity. Grab a group and start a contest to see who can get the most steps in. Some of my most treasured college memories happened when my friends and I spontaneously decided to explore after dinner. Get out there! Be free! This is your city now! And don’t forget to check those steps when you’re done — it’s amazing how fast they add up.

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