Voices of Sustainability: Jennifer Klein

Program: All Things Sustainable


Airdate: 01/14/2009

Walking to Beijing

I have long been an ardent fan of regular exercise, especially walking at a brisk pace. It's easy to do, in almost any weather, except perhaps in the height of winter, when our roads are encrusted in bone-shattering ice, and the wind chill seems unforgiving.  Walking is a natural activity for most of us, unlike pilates, swimming, biking, and other exercise modes that can take place only in some specialized  setting. I heard long ago that walking 10,000 steps a day is a reasonable goal to set for sustaining health and fitness, but I had never gone further than walking "by the clock" in my own loosely organized workout program. 

So when a walking program was initiated at work last summer, I joined 25 other teams of participants, put on my pedometer and enlisted in a three month competition. The program's theme "Walking to Beijing" built on the collective identity of many people working together toward a single goal....linking our steps toward a faraway place most of us would only see in the news.  One million steps later, I took pride in having reached a personal goal right during the height of the exciting 2008 Olympic Games. Move over, Michael Phelps!

During my hours of walking, I devoted more time than usual to reflecting on how our own actions that help promote health and wellness can also contribute to the health and wellness of the planet. A program like this gives us an opportunity to network with a walking buddy, while taking in the beauty of  the landscape around us. My teammate and I took a lot of our steps on the sidewalk along the St. Joseph River near the Farmer's Market in South Bend....very easily incorporating our routine into a lunchtime break from our jobs at I.U. South Bend.  

The new year often brings a pledge for better health and fitness. Why not do something for yourself, and the planet, if you are able, by walking more in 2009? You may not make it to Beijing, but I guarantee you will feel better, and help fight the horrible stigma of being a citizen of the most obese nation in the world. Did you get a GPS as a gift this holiday season? You might consider returning it, buying a pedometer, and having money left over. You will contribute to your own good health, and the health of the planet....fewer carbon emissions are generated when walking vs. driving to your destination.

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, once said "a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step".  So, step up for yourself and for the environment by walking more this year.

Jennifer Klein is Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene at Indiana University South Bend, and Director of the University Center for Excellence in Teaching. She lives and walks in South Bend.

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