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By: Camden Sutton

Imagine your legs moving, putting one in front of the other. Over and over. It matches the beat of that song you’re obsessed with right now. The sky is bright, crisp, and blue. You feel a slight breeze tugging at your shirt, and it would make you shiver if the sunlight weren’t so delightfully intoxicating that you seem to loose track of all the negatives in your life. You pass under the shadow of a maple tree; you lift your face to the translucent leaves back lit by that giant sun and absorb their complexity. They give off a green light, and are crisscrossed with thin veins, closer to spider webs than anything else. Then, as you emerge from that world beneath the maple tree, you feel the tender embrace of warmth as the sun’s light washes back over you. Suddenly you become aware of the air that’s been filling your lungs, and you inhale deep, filling your chest with air. As you exhale, the colors around you burst into focus, and you are in a sea of sights. The cherry blossoms, in full bloom, are accentuated by the sunlight highlighting the contrast between the white and pink of the petals and the green of the grass. You notice a cardinal in that tree, you see a friend, and stop to chat, soaking up the smiles and positive vibes abundant at James Madison University.

No other mode of transportation at JMU gives you the same feeling as walking.

Along with improving your mood, attitude, and outlook on life, walking is also the healthiest form of transportation! The average U.S. male who is 18 to 20 years old would burn 1710 calories sitting all day. A U.S. female, the same age, would burn 1670. This number would not be supplemented by taking the bus, but it would be supplemented by walking! If an average 18 to 20-year-old took a stroll to class, she would burn 217 calories, a male of that same age, 258.

Maybe we should all consider walking. These extra calories would get burned without you having to even think about it, much less go to UREC.

The following graph is a visual representation of the amount calories burned in a day. The blue columns represent the resting calories that would be burned, and the grey columns represent the extra calories that would be burned if you walked to class!

walkingvsbuseswalkingbuses

For you incoming freshman, walking can be an easy new habit to form at this moment because the conditions are conducive, at least according to Charles Duhigg author of the book The Power of Habit. He argues that people’s habits are more likely to change when they experience a dramatic change in their lifestyle, and the transition to college will be one of the largest and most dramatic changes in your lifestyle that you will ever experience. This means that now, during your first few weeks here at JMU is the best time to lay the foundation of a healthier lifestyle, to create new, better, and healthier habits. Duhigg suggests four elements necessary for forming a habit:

  • A cue for you to begin the habit
  • A routine to perform (which is the habit you are trying to form)
  • A reward for completing the routine
  • And a craving for that reward.

These four keys are needed in tandem for a habit to form. So to make a walking around campus a habit at JMU you could set your cue to be setting up your backpack for your classes for the day, checking the weather, and dimming your light as you leave your dorm room on your way to class. The routine would be walking to class. The reward could be anything that motivates you and gets you excited to walk around campus. I do not know what motivates you, but I used an hour of no homework and no stress as my reward. A quick precautionary: You should not make your reward something that has to do with eating because that could easily counteract the effects of your walk. From personal experience I can tell you that switching into the mobile life of walking campus can be physically taxing. I promise, it will get easier. My roommate said he took his fatigue as a challenge to overcome. Another friend of mine said she used the beauty of the campus as motivation to keep walking even though it got difficult. For all of us, the more we walked the easier walking got!  For the last section of this article I will focus on my friend named Sarah and how she has benefited from the positive effects of walking.

Simply through walking, Sarah was able to combat the “Freshman Fifteen” and loose 7 pounds rather then gain weight over the course of her first semester here at JMU. This weight loss came about because of the way her schedule was set up. She had Psych 101 in Anthony Seeger at the furthest end of the Quad and had to get all the way to the Phys/Chem building for her Chem 131 lab on East Campus in 15 minutes. Originally she tried to bike, but experienced a problem that many JMU bikers face- Hills. After the first week she had switched to walking. She chose this alternative because she found the campus beautiful and because one of her classes was focused on population. After the second week she decided to drop her class on the quad, but she did not drop her habit of walking around campus! She had already made it a habit. It has become such a part of her life, that she has thinks that she will probably not use a car next year even though she will be living off campus.

Take a page from Sarah’s book! Integrate walking into your daily life from the very beginning. Use it not only as a means maximize your enjoyment of our campus, but also a way for you to become the best possible you.

Works Cited

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.

Contributing Writer. “Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator.” Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator. Bodybuilding.com, 14 Apr. 2003. Web. 18 Mar. 2016

Schwanke, Crystal. “Average Height and Weight for a Teenager.” Lifestyle. LoveToKnow, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.