Walking Club takes strides to better health

The St. John’s University Walking Club takes 20-minute stroll around campus every Tuesday and Wednesday. People participate in the lunch-time walk around campus, which is part of the University’s Wellness Program.

The walks are organized and led by Laura Luecke, the benefits specialist of the St John’s Human Resources department.

Luecke thought of the idea last winter, but waited until the weather warmed up to begin the bi-weekly walks. In March 2009, Luecke’s club went on its first walk.

“[There is] no pressure,” Luecke said, “… [Walking] is something just about all of us can do.” Although the club’s original purpose was to promote physical activity, there is no competition involved.

“It’s fun!” Luecke added.

Mary Alison Cunneen, a secretary in the department of Sociology and Anthropology, started walking with the club as a way to get away from her desk and exercise.

As a former runner, Cunneen appreciates the health benefits of walking. She is careful to make walking a part of her daily schedule, inside or outside of the walking club.

“When I don’t walk with [the club] I walk to do errands,” she said.

Although Cunneen appreciates the health benefits of joining a walking club, the opportunity to socialize with her coworkers is the best part of the club.

“[When you walk] with a group with you,
it’s more motivating,” said first-time walker Stacey Varghese, associate director of Loughlin Institutional Advancement. She joined the club, not just because it was a convenient way to integrate exercise into her daily schedule, but for the social interaction as well.

Astra Butkus, secretary to the President, appreciates the opportunity to spend some time in her workday outside.

“I love the outdoors, and it’s good for you,” Butkus said. “It’s common sense.”

The last Thursday of every month, the club holds a raffle outside the library, where they meet for their walks. In previous months, the raffle prizes were gift cards funded by a grant from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, but now that the grant money has run out, Luecke is looking for other prizes. A Rachel Ray cookbook is the front runner for her next raffle.

Walking clubs are becoming increasingly popular. Oprah Winfrey’s Web site, oprah.com, has a virtual walking club that anybody can join. In her club, walkers post goals and encouragement in a forum
designated for walkers.

There are many health benefits to walking.

According to WebMd.com, not only is walking
an effective way to lose weight and strengthen your heart and lungs, but walking can boost your mood, self-esteem, and energy levels. The calculator on the site indicates that on their 20-minute walk around campus, club members burn about 68 calories each.