University of Mississippi Medical Center interim IT solutions strategist Jennifer Spane usually walks four times a day, at the Medical Mall and at home, as a reminder of what she almost lost.
After a massive blood clot put her in a coma for a month and left her weak as a kitten when she awakened, Spane walked it off -- literally.
“When I came back to life, I really could not walk,” Spane said of her long 2012 hospitalization at UMMC. “I couldn't get out of bed without the aid of my nurses.”
After being discharged, “I took baby steps,” Spane, interim IT solutions strategist in DIS, remembered. “And when I went to my doctor for a follow-up, he wouldn't give me a handicapped sticker for my car because he wanted me to walk.”
She's among hundreds of UMMC employees who walk for exercise, relaxation and their health. Chances are excellent that they'll be doing just that on Wednesday as the Medical Center and the American Heart Association observe National Walking Day.
“The scientific evidence is growing that sitting all day is not good for you, and that getting up periodically and moving around is good for your health, and also for your stress levels,” said Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine.
“Many of us don't get enough exercise, and walking is something that most people can do,” he said. “Walking may not necessarily result in losing weight, but it's certainly good for you.”
On Wednesday, employees and students are invited to meet at 11:30 a.m. in the circular drive in front of University Heart, then join in an 11:45 a.m. walk around the campus following a planned circular route on the edge of campus. To view a map of the route, click here.
It will take walkers by Parking Garage A, the Adult Hospital and ED, Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, Batson Children's Hospital and Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital, then left toward the new School of Medicine and another left by the Guyton Research Center to return to University Heart.
Bring a pair of tennis shoes to change into, suggests Brea Cole, manager of the Medical Center's medically integrated wellness program. “It's about fun, and it's creating community,” she said of Wednesday's walk.
National Walking Day “is a day where we urge everyone to focus on becoming more active for better health,” said Dr. Debbie Minor, a pharmacist and professor of medicine serving as president-elect of the Metro Jackson American Heart Association board of directors. “The simplest change you can make to improve your heart health is to start walking. It's fun, free, easy and great exercise.”
Research shows that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help reduce risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and reduce risk of breast and colon cancer, the AHA says. Benefits also include maintaining your body weight, lowering the risk of obesity, reducing risk of osteoporosis, and enhancing mental well-being.
Ask Carol Northrup why she makes it a priority to walk circles around the Jackson Medical Mall, and she'll tell you it's about more than her health.
“I'm 64. My grandson is two and a half. He likes to run,” said Northrup, an IT senior business administrator in UMMC's Division of Information Systems.
“I'm not skinny, and I probably need to lose some weight, and this probably helps it,” she said of getting up from her desk and walking twice daily with Patricia Welsch, an IT administrator. “We walk the whole inside of the mall and back, or all the way around the outside. Trish and I have a pretty fast stride.”
“Sitting at a desk all day is not good for you,” Welsch said. “We do a mile to two miles in the mall each day. When I walk my dog at night, that's probably about a mile.”
UMMC employee Stephanie Lucas is a fixture on the walkway connecting the schools of Medicine and Dentistry. Her fast pace inspires others who walk through the day.
Stephanie Lucas, director of operations for the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, is one of the fastest walkers on campus. Lucas generally takes a mid-morning break to get in steps on the walkway between the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.
“I do eight full rounds, from wall to wall, so that's a little over two miles,” Lucas said. “I do it to stay fit and to reprogram. It takes me 35 to 40 minutes, and it makes the day go by better.”
Even when she was pregnant with her son, Lucas said, she never stopped walking. “I was a faithful walker. It could be freezing outside, but I would walk around my neighborhood every day. My legs were swollen then, and I couldn't walk nearly as fast as I do now.”
Mann and Cole say they make a point of walking to campus from the stadium or overflow parking lots. “I've taken the bus twice here, and that's because it was raining,” Cole said.
“It's close to 10 minutes each way,” Mann said. “It's part of my daily exercise routine.”
Spane walks three times a day at the Medical Mall - once at lunch, and both of her two breaks. That's 1,500 steps per break, and another 3,000-4,000 at lunch. Push a little harder, and she's at 10,000 steps at work.
“When I get home, I put the leash on my daughter's poodle, and we walk.” That can mean another 10,000 steps.
And don't forget her early morning routine. “I start walking toward work, and I tell my son to pick me up down the road. Wherever he picks me up, that's how many extra steps I get in, usually 2,500 to 3,000.”
It's important to note that one brisk walk probably won't melt away the calories you just consumed from a can of Coke (150) or a package of six peanut butter crackers (about 200) from the vending machine. It takes about a mile to walk off 100 calories, Mann said.
In contrast, about seven minutes burns off the 55 calories in one Oreo cookie.
Mann encourages those who don't have health problems that would prohibit walking to start a moderate program of a few minutes per day, building up to the recommended 30 minutes of walking daily. “The important thing is to keep moving, and you don't have to get all of your exercise in at one time,” Mann said.
For non-walkers, National Walking Day can be a step in that direction.
“The leaders of the Medical Center are trying to promote a culture of health,” Mann said. “This is a way to show that we are committed to health.”