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June 24, 2002

Walking campus is first key to better health

By Eric Rangus

One hour a week is all that’s asked, but once a person starts walking for health, it’s pretty tough to enforce such an easy-to-reach limit.

Since April, the phrase “Calling All Walkers!” has shouted at viewers of the Today@ Emory web calendar every Monday. Clicking on the link invites any and all to walk around the park in Lullwater.

Literally … that is true. A group walks in, around and through Lullwater’s various footpaths. The experience, however, is far from, well, a walk in the park.

Not quite a power walk, but not a stroll either, the walkers keep a relatively quick pace. Quick enough that they travel about three miles in the hour of exercise allotted.

Walking isn’t the only form of exercise, either. One recent Monday, Lullwater walk organizer Yvonne Hodge and Gloria Weaver, assistant director of Equal Opportunity Programs and Disability Services, brought along exercise bands so they could work their upper bodies.

Weaver, a frequent Monday walker, has been exercising seriously since October and notices a significant difference in her everyday life.

“I have more energy, and I just feel better all around,” she said.

Hodge has led an Emory walking group in one form or another for better part of three years. She discovered, though, whenever she didn’t participate, it would fall apart. Beginning in April she started it once again, this time making sure walkers were committed, even if she wasn’t there. Monday walks are planned through September, which is when the weather starts becoming less friendly and the sun sets earlier.

On most days about 6–10 people walk, and the activity has become so popular that she recently added a Wednesday walk around Lullwater, also at 5:15 p.m.

“We want to make Emory’s employees the healthiest they can be,” said Hodge, manager of occupational health promotion in the Emory Well House.

“It’s also really cheap. All you need is a pair of shoes. It’s a no-excuse reason to get active.”

For those who haven’t experienced Lullwater Park, they are missing an essential part of Emory, not to mention a diverse, in some places challenging, and an often beautiful walk.

A paved trail winds its way from the entrance near the corner of Clifton Road and Haygood Drive through the park around Lullwater House and back again. It’s pretty easy, although if walkers circle the house counterclockwise, they’ll have to climb perhaps the steepest hill in the park. Traversing it at near the end of a hike can be a thigh-burner.

While the current state of Lullwater Park is fodder for a great deal of debate (the border trails adjacent to the VA Hospital could hardly be called aesthetic), the natural beauty of the place is unquestioned.

The best way to see the unspoiled part of Lullwater is to exit the paved trail and explore the many dirt trails around the park—something Hodge and the walking group do every time. In fact, Hodge said, the walkers have hiked along every inch of trail in Lullwater.

“And even made a few of our own,” Weaver added.

Lullwater’s trails are well-marked, mostly flat and easy to negotiate. Some are wide enough to accommodate walkers and bikers (of which Lullwater has quite a few), but most—primarily those in the center of the park—require lines in single file.

The popular loop around the President’s House is 0.8 miles (1.1 miles if measured from the front gate. The loop around Lullwater Lake is 0.9 miles and the trail called the Hill Loop, which is accessible from each of the previous trails, is 1.2 miles. Many walkers track their steps by using a pedometer, which counts the number of steps a person takes and then calculate the distance they have walked

The Lullwater walks are associated with a program the Emory Well House rolled out in April called Emory AppleWalks: FootPaths to Wellness, which is a comprehensive program aimed to promote walking as a way to achieve better health.

The AppleWalks brochure notes not only paths around Lullwater, but also the Quadrangle (three-and-a-half times around is just over a mile) and the Clifton Corridor from the traffic light at North Decatur Road to Wesley Woods (7,355 feet—nearly one-and-a-half miles).

Hodge said she hopes to see management take an active role in encouraging employees to get fit. Some offices, such as financial aid, already have walking groups, and next month another group will start up in Human Resources. It’s a good start, Hodge said, but she knows more is possible.

“This campus is going to become a walking campus and we should start now,” she said. “I’d like to see management encourage staff to exercise by giving them an extra 15 minutes each day to do something physical. And managers, supervisors should walk with employees, too. People used to take smoking breaks, now they should take walk breaks.”