Walking across America

About 150 people in the Oakland University community began their journey to Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 10 — by foot.

Using pedometers, members of the newly founded OU Walks! Across America walking program started their quest to the West Coast with a goal of walking 2,300 miles by Dec. 5.

“Each participant got a pedometer and they will log their steps and at the beginning of each week they turn in their step log and we convert it into miles,” said Leah Dupuie, graduate assistant for Fitness and Wellness.

At a meeting each week, the steps will be converted into miles so participants can keep track.

“We scale the miles so every mile that they walked equals 10 miles on the map,” Dupuie said. “Then we track each participant’s progress at the recreation center across America and the goal is that each person makes it to the destination of Los Angeles by Dec. 5.”

OU Walks! Across America began after Dupuie and the Department of Campus Recreation were granted the Brooksie Way Minigrant for a program that promoted fitness and wellness.

“We tried to get a fitness and wellness program together so no matter what fitness level they were at they could be apart of  it and could benefit from,so we decided to put this together,” Dupuie said.

Throughout the next few months’, participants in the program will have 200-mile mini-goals on their way to Los Angeles. The first mini-goal is in Chicago. and the walkers who make it to the destination are put into a drawing for fitness and wellness prizes.

“Every week, whoever makes it to a mini-destination gets thrown into a drawing and there will be prizes that relay back to fitness and wellness, so they’ll win personal training sessions or mind and body passes or memberships,” Dupuie said. “There just little prizes that get them more into fitness and wellness.”

In order to make things more manageable, the program set up bonus miles for participants who can’t always walk the full 10,000 steps required each day.

“If they attend a social event on campus or they bring a paper or project that they did better than 3.5 on, they’ll own bonus miles,” Dupuie said. “So, we have little things along the way so they can earn more miles rather than just walking.”

Other qualifying ‘bonus miles’ are intramural sports, nutrition demos,  group exercises and other wellness activities, according to Dupuie.

Although the ultimate goal is to reach 2,300 miles and L.A., Dupuie wants all the participants to work towards a healthier lifestyle through the program and realize you don’t have to set aside a designated amount of time to work out.

“We want people to understand that you don’t always have to set aside 30 minutes a day to get your exercise,” she said. “You can spread it out the day by walking a flight of stairs rather than talking the elevator.”

Only in it’s third day of existence, the program has already educated one participant.

“A program like this definitely makes us aware of what we can do and what we’re doing in our daily lives that we don’t see as important,” Breanna Coleman, student, said. “Just thinking of things that you do everyday really helps.”

Coleman, who is on a journey of her own to long-term weight loss believes the program can jump start her own goals.

“I think it’s a great program,” Coleman said. “I know Leah worked very hard to get the grant and she stressed in the meeting that this program can lead into so much more and with the incentives and the other ways you can earn bonus miles, it increases your overall health.”

Dupuie hopes the program will continue past the first year, but ultimately hopes it can teach the participants about fitness and wellness.

“It’s an educational piece,” she said. “Right now it’s a one-time thing, but we would like to do it again. It all depends on the funding for it, if we can figure out other ways to get funding for it, then we would love to do it again.”

A board will be set up in the Oakland recreation center tracking the progress of each participant as they travel across the country on their way to  California and their goal of 2,300 miles.

Participants who finish the full 2,300 miles will receive a an ‘OU Walks! Across America’ t-shirt as recognition for their accomplishment.