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Short walks offer exercise benefit, change of scenery

October 25, 2012 By Stacy Forster

Photo: walkers on Lakeshore path

Pedestrians walk along the Temin Lakeshore Path on a recent fall day. The campus offers many routes for walkers to enjoy a healthy stroll.

Photo: Bryce Richter

The University of Wisconsin–Madison campus – which combines a striking lakeshore, iconic vistas and an urban location – provides an ideal place for people who like to walk.

This low-impact exercise offers health benefits and a chance to stroll in the outdoors, working off the daily stresses of work and study.

Some campus walkers might balk at climbing Bascom Hill, but Mary Johansen tries to do it at least five times a day.

In addition to her trip up to work in the Office of the Academic Staff each morning, Johansen frequently takes walks with colleague Cynthia Paine during her lunch hour, going up and down the hill four times before heading back to her desk.

“It changes the environment in my head,” Johansen says. “It’s a nice workout, but it also makes me feel less stressed and able to refocus when I get back to the office.”

Research shows that even short bursts of physical activity like Johansen’s are enough to feel the health benefits of exercise.

While every two hours of sitting at work is linked to a 7 percent increased risk for diabetes, every hour of brisk walking leads to a 34 percent decreased risk for the disease, says Ronnie Carda, coordinator of the physical education activity program in the School of Education and an expert on health and physical fitness.

“You talk about the cost of not having enough time, but there’s certainly a cost to the inactivity as well,” Carda says.

With a campus spanning 935 acres, there’s plenty of space to get out and move around during a study break or over a lunch hour. An average person will burn about 100 calories on a 10-15 minute walk; doing that over 35 days equals about 3,500 calories, or a pound of fat, Carda says.

“It’s a great way to gets some fresh air and some stress relief, and enjoy some of your lunch break,” Carda says. “We have this great syndrome of not enough time in our society, but there are ways to carve out little chunks of 10 to 15 minutes that can really serve you quite well.”

Photo: feet of walkers on Bascom Hill

Many walkers come specially equipped for the trek up and down Bascom Hill.

Photo: Bryce Richter

Mapping out a route is easy, too. Click on the “ruler” feature in the upper left hand corner of the campus map to sketch and measure the distance of a potential route. Some apps can turn a smart phone into a pedometer, which also can help track distance traveled, time spent exercising and estimated calories burned.

Unsure about where to start? Here are some ideas to get you to take those first steps:

Union to Union: Memorial Union to Union South and back – about 1.3 miles or 20 minutes

For a quick burst of exercise, beat a path from one of the university’s most iconic buildings to one of its newest. Start outside the Memorial Union on Langdon Street, then head south on Park Street to University Avenue. Head down University until you get to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, head south a block to Union South, then turn around and walk back toward the lake.

Lakeshore: Memorial Union to the entrance of Picnic Point – about 2 miles, or about 40 minutes

This tree-lined walk through the Lakeshore Nature Preserve is beautiful in any season. Winter provides vistas of ice-covered Lake Mendota, while summer offers glimpses of rowers making their way from Porter Boathouse and sailboats heading toward the Memorial Union Terrace. (Walking all the way to the end of Picnic Point adds another three-quarters of a mile, or about 15 more minutes.)

Campus highlights: From the Red Gym along University Avenue, Linden Drive and Observatory Drive to Bascom Hill – about 1.5 miles or 30 minutes

UW-Madison’s Visitor & Information Programs has put together a walking tour of campus that hits all the major highlights, including a stroll down the Bascom Hill Historic District. Walkers can swing in to the Babcock Hall Dairy Store for a scoop or take a look at Lake Mendota from a scenic overlook on Observatory Drive.

Be a Badger: From the Kohl Center to Camp Randall – about 2.4 miles or 45 minutes

Make like it’s a football Saturday in Madison and head toward Camp Randall on Johnson St. Turn down Breese Terrace to Regent Street, where you’ll see the iconic “Nails Tails” statue outside the stadium. Then transition to back to basketball or hockey season by heading east on the Southwest Commuter Path to the Kohl Center.