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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

What Walking Did For Me, Can Do For You

Written by: Ariana Tsegai 🇪🇷

Frigid, quiet, and humbling. These are three adjectives I’d use to describe the environment on campus during winter break. Thousands of students prepared to leave their dorms as the fall semester concluded, but mine only continued.

I made the bold decision to take a 4 -credit winter course not just for requirements but to enhance my skills and keep my brain moving during the month off.

What I didn’t realize was that I’d spend the majority of my day staring at a screen and partaking in hours of online assignments. I began to question why I took this course in the first place as the majority of my winter plans went on hold to focus on prioritizing this class.

I can recall the spookiness of the first couple of days being on an empty campus. There wasn’t any laughing I could hear through the thin walls of my room, or the sounds of construction blasting through my windows- I began to feel isolated.

There was a part of me that enjoyed the quiet and being able to wake up to the sound of my own voice, and that could dictate what my day would look like. Prioritizing silence gave me peace of mind to my days, but I figured it was time to end the feeling of isolation and expand on my journey to health and wellness.

With that in mind, I decided to put on my sneakers, snapped my Apple Watch onto my arm, and took a walk around campus. I knew this was a perfect opportunity for me considering construction was not at its peak yet. What I discovered from that walk completely changed me as a person.

Ariana Tsegai's Apple watch on her walk Jan.11, near Van Munich Hall at the University of Maryland. (Ariana Tsegai)

I was aware of the effects walking would provide for me. I can recall reading an article that emphasized the importance of walking for improved mental health. I realized that in the span of a week, my vitamin D and iron deficiency was eradicated. My sleep got better and so did my appetite.

The internal benefits of walking played a role in my motivation to do it again, but external factors were also having an impact. I began to incorporate podcasts into my morning routine and I realized studying didn’t just have to happen at the desk. I was able to practice and study for my exams through the duration of my walks, and I used this as an opportunity to invite friends and family to join.

Since then, I’ve made it a routine to walk at least 40 minutes in the morning. I found that making these rounds of walking allowed me to enjoy my environment of living on campus a lot more. There are amenities and buildings I never knew existed, As well as secret study spots that enabled a quiet environment. I also found hidden seating areas in different parts of the school.

Walking has brought me closer to my peers and has allowed me to take on my environment in a different way. The feeling of productivity motivated me to finish my winter class strong. I can say firsthand that walking and studying have given me better efficiency on assignments and helped greatly with my oral exams.

It seems that the correlation between walking and improved mental health is pretty common, but what’s been interesting about this experience is my increase in motivation. Most of us tend to underestimate the power and importance of physical activity.

I want to emphasize how great podcasts were for the walks and recommend my favorite ones. I spent the majority of my time listening to “Anything Goes” with Emma Chamberlain and “The Self Love Fix” with Beatrice Kamau. When I found productive podcasts that emphasized the importance of self-love and self-exploration, it helped me find myself in ways I couldn’t imagine.

I found that by walking the duration of these podcasts, I was taking in more information than I would’ve if I was simply sitting in my room.

With all of this being said, I’d also like to share some of my favorite walking locations on campus that hopefully, you will explore.

Typically, I’d spend about 50 minutes doing a full circle around campus. The hills are helpful for the extra burn but due to construction – most locations are blocked off. McKeldin Mall, the quad between Van Munching, XFINITY Center, and other open areas are all productive and entertaining paths to walk through.

These locations have luckily not been compromised by the ongoing construction. Hopefully, more locations will open up to students to provide a way to continue or start their journey of walking.

My experience on campus during winter break opened my eyes to the importance of physical activity and the way it can impact your mental health, to this day I still take the time to explore my community more and what there is to offer

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