Oct. 05 2015

Making Monday the Healthiest Day of the Week

Public health campaigns aim to build healthier communities, one day at a time

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has some – rather literal – marching orders for Americans: Walk more. The Lerner Centers for Public Health Promotion at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and Syracuse University have more specific guidance: Walk a mile. Start on Monday. Repeat every week.

Part of the broader Move It Monday campaign, Monday Mile is a fun, easy way for communities to get a healthy start to the week and to form healthy habits. It’s a movement driven by people: individuals map a mile-long route, gather their friends, family or co-workers, and commit to walking or running their route each Monday. Many participants are harnessing the power of social media to recruit new walkers, encourage friends, or to stay committed to their own pledges by sharing with #MoveItMonday.

More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese and, for many people, sitting behind a desk in an office all day contributes to the problem. "The American workforce is becoming increasingly sedentary," said Gina Wingood, director of the Lerner Center at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. "Facilitating regular walking groups is an important way of supporting the health and well-being of our community."

Move It Monday is one of the Monday Campaigns – other campaigns include Meatless Monday and DeStress Monday – which encourages people of all fitness levels to dedicate the first day of every week to health. They’ve pulled together a useful toolkit to make organizing walks and other fitness activities as easy as possible for anyone interested. Included are tips on organizing, tools to map a walking route, facts about the importance of walking, social media graphics and pointers, and more.

Mondays are already busy days for many people – so why pick this day to try to start a new healthy habit? Sid Lerner, founder of the Monday Campaigns and the Lerner Centers, explains: “Research shows that people are more likely to commit to an exercise program on Monday, and that those who start their week with exercise are more likely to keep exercising throughout the week.”

Across the Columbia campuses, students, faculty, and staff are getting involved. In conjunction with Columbia University Office of Work/Life’s Walk to Wellness program, PlusOne and Dodge Fitness Center fitness instructors lead lunchtime walks on the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Medical Center campuses – not just on Monday, but twice a week. “It has been a wonderful opportunity working with the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion on integrating Move it Monday messaging to support our walking program,” said Carol Hoffman, Associate Provost and Director, Office of Work/Life, “and we are excited about extending Monday campaign communications to all faculty and staff on the Wellness listserv.”

Hundreds of people have joined Walk to Wellness since its launch in the summer of 2010, many of whom say that they’ve seen an increase in how often, how long, and/or how intense their exercise routine has become, thanks to the program.

Regular physical activity is one of the keys to staying healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s recommended that adults get roughly two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week to maintain their weight – that’s 30 minutes, five days a week. Not just for weight control, regular exercise is also proven to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, to increase brain power, and to reduce the risks of some cancers and Type 2 Diabetes.

There’s a large and well-documented gap between public health research and the adoption of healthier practices at the community level. One of the ways the Lerner Center aims to close that gap is by translating research into practices that people can easy make a part of their lives, such as Move It Monday. Movements like this start small, but they can grow to have big impacts on health behaviors – one person, one mile, and one Monday at a time.