‘Take a Hike’ for Your Health
It was a picture-perfect day on June 8, the kind of weather that makes you wish you had time to take a break from work to get outside. Luckily, NIH’ers had a great excuse to get out for a jog or stroll that afternoon: the 10th annual Take a Hike Day Walk/Fun Run.
More than 1,500 people registered for NIH’s largest annual wellness event and walked or jogged the 3.25 mile loop around campus or traversed paths at off-campus locations such as Fishers Ln.
“I don’t usually have time to do the whole loop, but today is such a nice day to get out and walk with my coworkers,” said NLM’s Heather Collins.
Some NIH’ers are hike veterans. D’Vonte Putney, a management analyst with NINDS, has participated annually for the past 8 years; he is NINDS representative to the NIH Health and Wellness Council, which helped organize the event. “It’s a great way to connect with people, walk and talk and have a self-reflecting period,” he said.
Others took the hike for the first time, such as OHR’s Lashawn Thomas, who said she enjoyed seeing the campus from the perimeter. “I didn’t realize it was that big!” she said. “It was a nice break from sitting at my desk.”
Putney tries to stay active by going to the gym and, lately, doing yard work. “I have a lot more energy when I’m active,” he said. “I also walk a lot for my job so I get my steps in.”
For Thomas, the event was a reminder to get outside and get moving. “I say I’m going to walk more, but I don’t always make the time,” she said. “This initiative brings people together and [inspired] me to do it.”
How much exercise is enough? The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans advises 150 minutes of regular, moderate physical activity or 70 minutes of vigorous activity weekly.
“The science is very clear,” said Dr. Peter Kilmarx, deputy director of the Fogarty International Center and representative of the Surgeon General’s office, during the event’s welcome outside Bldg. 1. “Just 22 minutes a day of physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other major causes of disability and death, but only about half of Americans get enough physical activity to reduce the risk.”
Kilmarx praised NIH’ers for embracing Step It Up, the agency-wide campaign to increase use of stairs. In a recent survey, 70 percent of respondents had seen the motivational signs that inspired many to take the stairs more often.
“Sitting is the new smoking,” said NHLBI director Dr. Gary Gibbons. NIH research shows that “the more hours you log sitting at your desk, the shorter your lifespan,” he said. “But the good news is: you can walk it out...Even just a half hour of brisk walking a day can stretch out that lifespan more than 7 years. I’m glad you’re walking the talk and living our mission.”
This was the second time the Children’s Inn at NIH hiked as a group, which included 20 residents and 7 staff. “The residents don’t get to leave much so this was a nice experience for families,” said Rosa Segura. Her colleague at the inn, Tonia Flores, added, “They got to see more of the campus and got a good workout.”
Dr. Don Wright, acting executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, underscored the importance of physical activity for reducing the risk of obesity and chronic disease. He said the council has an online tool, the Zero to 60 campaign, with tips on incorporating exercise into daily living.
It sometimes seems tough to find time to exercise while at work. Kilmarx suggested walking to meetings or walking to meet a colleague rather than calling or emailing.
“Keep stepping it up every day of the week,” he urged. “Keep on walking, running, wheel-chairing and taking the stairs.”
And follow the mantras of the motivational signs along the Take a Hike Day path. One proclaimed, “Find your happy pace.” Another read, “You got this.”
ORS dedicated this year’s hike to the late Thomas Hayden, former director of the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services, who conceived of the event to promote exercise at NIH. He died unexpectedly in summer 2013.