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Binghamton University students walk their way into shape

"Steps to B Healthy" program allows students to register their walking statistics with the American Heart Association

Students at Binghamton University are no strangers to trekking across campus every day to get to class. But now, those steps can translate into prizes.

Through the “Steps to B-Healthy” program, participants can track their steps using a smartphone app or pedometer, and register with the University through the American Heart Association online activity tracker.

Once users start logging steps, they become eligible for monthly contests. If walkers reach a minimum amount of steps they can be entered in a raffle to win a prize. Walkers that accumulate 300,000 steps during the month of May will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate from Campus Recreation.

“It builds a little camaraderie and a little competition,” said Cindy Cowden, the chair of the B-Healthy steering committee and the associate director of facilities and internal operations at the East Gym. “We wanted to keep things fresh.”

The program kicked off on April 2, National Walking Day. Since the start of the program, 87 walkers have registered and have logged an average of 34,000 steps per person, totaling 2,962,794 steps.

Hannah Sachs, a senior majoring in human development who has logged 25,000 steps, also praised the program as a way for students to gauge how much physical activity they’re engaging in each day.

“I think that students should get into the walking program to see visually, how much, or how little exercise they are actually getting,” Sachs said. “Students can also use this portal as a way to make a competition out of exercise or to track exercise either for a health and wellness class or to reach a goal.”

During the kickoff, representatives at stations set up along the Brain handed out free water bottles and pedometers. Organizers also advertised on the Campus Recreation website and are beginning to display the B-Healthy logo around campus.

According to Cowden, students who join the walking program could experience academic benefits as well as physical results such as reduced stress and fewer illnesses.

“We’re looking at research that indicates that campuses that focus on the health and wellbeing of students is directly tied to reducing academic impediments,” Cowden said.

Through the walking program, March’s “Commit to B-Fit Health Fair” and other wellness opportunities, Cowden said the B-Healthy initiative is trying to create a health and wellness culture at BU.

“We want to get to the point that as soon as you’re on campus, you make the automatic recognition that this is a healthy and well, safe, academically strong institution,” Cowden said.

Cowden said that the committee hopes to register more student walkers next fall. She attributed the low number of student walkers to the fact that the program was implemented toward the end of the semester.

“It’s a really hard time right now for students because they’re getting ready to leave,” Cowden said. “It’ll be back up and running in the fall, we’ll try to get as many students registered as we can.”

Although there are not many student walkers yet, Rebecca Schwartz, a junior majoring in sociology, said that the walking program was a good addition to the campus.

“I think it will definitely help in terms of studying and making sure you can get yourself on a good schedule of being healthy and active and keeping yourself in shape,” Schwartz said.

The B-Healthy program is sponsored by Campus Recreation, Residential Life and Sodexo