Health Corner: Trekking Around

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Nicholas Mukhar runs up the steps of Lone Mountain to attend an afternoon class. He carried a pedometer with him for an entire day earlier this week. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

We’re buried in the hills of San Francisco at USF, where a walk from class to class on this deceivingly small campus can build up a steady sweat. If you’ve ever considered making your daily schedule part of your workout or thought about measuring your walking distance throughout the day, don’t bother. I’ve done the cardiovascular experiment for you, risking noticeable armpit stains in class and being known as the sweaty, smelly guy no one wants to sit next to; all to bring you your own personal guide: Walking USF.

The morning was Monday, Mar. 9, 2009. I was racing to school for my 9:40 a.m. religious ethics class, and luckily I found a parking spot closer than usual; Masonic and McAllister. Since USF decided not give parking permit priority to a senior who lives 45 minutes away, I usually park on Fulton St. along Golden Gate Park and hike up to class. This spot today was prime, saving me roughly 1,000 steps, approximately 10 minutes, and preserving my good mood. I now had enough time to cruise through the Foghorn office, drop off some cargo, and slide into class just as Professor Miller had begun his lecture.

Walking from the car to the office took me 584 steps and 13 calories. I did my thing in the office, and trekked to my first class: KHall 263. I walked through the front entrance of KHall, sped past rest rooms and professors, and swung open the last door on the right. I saw a woman giving a Powerpoint presentation and I was bewildered; Professor Miller is a man and does not use Powerpoint in class. I glanced around the room and didn’t recognize anyone; some students had turned to stare at me. Awkward. I realized I was in the wrong classroom, one floor below my actual classroom. I smiled, embarrassed. I turned around and walked out of the class, hearing muffled laughter behind me. I climbed the steps to K Hall 263, peeked through the door, recognized everyone, walked in, sat down and laughed out loud as I told a classmate what a fool I had just made of myself. This mission took 542 steps (ten extra due to my miscue). According to my USF pedometer, I burned 12 calories, not including the laughter. I was still on time to class.

At 11:25 a.m. I walked out of class and hit the Foghorn to do some last-minute homework. As I left the classroom I took the extra two steps to turn and admire some artwork on the wall and continued on my way. I got to the Foghorn Office at 11:40 a.m. in 494 steps and burned 11 calories. I crammed some studying in and then headed to drop some mail off at the first floor of the UC Building, then back to my car on Masonic and McAllister to unload a few notebooks; 754 steps and 17 calories in total, including the three extra steps it took on the way to the car to turn and say hi to Spencer, who works in the politics department. My friend and I decided to ditch the studying and go for a walk when we got to my car, unwilling to waste such a sunny San Francisco afternoon. We approached the corner of the Education building, faced the long driveway leading to Lone Mountain, and decided to answer the burning question on every USF student’s mind: Is it quicker to walk up Heart Attack Hill by taking the long driveway past the Education building and ROTC, or should I tackle the beast straight up and ascend via the stairs? We walked up the long driveway, into Lone Mountain, and ended at room #365 where I had my Globalization and Resistance class later on: 673 steps and 15 calories. We turned around and headed for the exit, eventually taking the stairs down and ending at the corner of Chabot and Turk: 493 steps and 11 calories gone. If you’re ever late to class, the stairs to heaven are the way to go.

We cut through Chabot, and eventually arrived at KHall 163 where I demonstrated for my walking buddy my morning incident. Again, it took me 10 steps.

On the way out, we took a detour on the first floor of KHall to say hi to Professor Moore at her office, but no one was home. It was an uneventful move; just a solid 109 steps and 2 calories. I left the front KHall entrance with my walking partner as two gentlemen opened the door for us. I walked through and said thank you, to which one responded that he opened the door for my female friend in front of me. Being my sarcastic self, I turned around, walked back through the doors into KHall, and back out again as the gentlemen continued to hold the doors and let out fake laughs; my laughter was genuine. It was well worth the six extra steps, three going in and three back out.

Looking for something to ease our disappointment caused by Professor Moore’s disappearance, we spotted a sale on clothes in Harney Plaza and decided to take another detour. The mission from Professor Moore’s office to the Harney Plaza Mall took us 265 steps (including the door incident) and shed six calories off my body, again not including laughter. The Harney Plaza Mall seemed unappealing after roughly seven seconds, and we lost interest. Before returning to the Foghorn office we dashed over to the Harney Plaza Foghorn distribution box and snagged an issue before they were gone. From the Harney Plaza Mall to the Foghorn Distribution box, we took 82 steps and again burned 2 calories. Paper in my hand, we made it back to the office in 294 steps from the distribution box, including the 20 extra steps it took to stop and talk to Heather.

At 2:30 p.m. I realized I had little time to move my car before my parking expired, so I hurried back to my car; same steps, same calories as before. As I found a parking spot on Golden Gate near Koret, I knew it was time to hike the concrete mountain once again. I parallel parked, hopped out, and 976 steps, 22 calories, and nine minutes later I was entering my class sweat-stain free but feeling fatigued from my light sprint up Lone Mountain.

I got out of class at 5:15 p.m. and headed over to the infamous KHall 163 for the third time. The classroom that was home to my morning blunder is also where I take a 3-hour night class. I sat in class and contemplated which of the two situations in that room, the embarrassing one or the current one, I would rather be in. It was a draw, they both lost: 976 steps, 22 calories.

Once my class was over, it was Foghorn time for the rest of the night. I walked over to my second home, let out a sigh of relief, and began to work. I was almost done with my excursions for the day, and by the time I left the Foghorn in the early morning hours and arrived at my car, I was admittedly exhausted.

I had taken 16,724 steps on campus but was angered to learn I had only burned 173 calories. To me this could not have been right. I had walked 5.3 miles and not even reached the 200 calorie mark. So walking around school isn’t that great for you? Don’t get discouraged and write off your class schedule as being nothing more than a lazy stroll just yet. There are easy ways your calories burned can be exponentially higher than mine, with the same amount of steps. For one, my walk was by all means a stroll. I was moving around campus at a pace of less than two miles per hour (trust me I did the math). The faster you walk the more calories you will burn. Also, as I walked slowly, took in the sun, irritated people in front of K Hall, stopped to look at things and talked to people, I was taking shorter strides. My average stride length was only two feet. The longer strides you take, the more calories you will burn.

Finally, my calculation only encompassed my steps and stride length against an average speed. It did not take into account incline, temperature, or any other things you do throughout your walk (like laughing). All of these things increase the amount of calories burnt. Clearly, my calorie count was higher and the pedometer can only be used as a floor level number for the amount of calories you burn. What I found was this: USF being on hills gives us a better chance of staying in shape, but if getting around campus is your only form of exercise, make sure I’m out of the way as you’re sprinting up Lone Mountain.

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