Walking in Phoenix

ASU nursing college to hold series of wellness walks

People crossing the street in downtown Phoenix.

Sunshine, a light breeze, birds in the trees, the blood flowing — a simple walk can work wonders.

Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation is proposing “wellness walks” this spring for anyone who wants to get away from their screens for an hour and maybe see something new.

Two members of the college’s executive team will be leading the walks in downtown Phoenix.

On March 24 at 11:30 a.m., Senior Associate Dean Craig Thatcher will lead a walk to Margaret Hance Park, including the Phoenix Public Library, which was designed by the famous architect Will Bruder and opened in 1995. Thatcher will include one of the Phoenix historic districts on that tour or a subsequent one. An historic district resident, Thatcher looks forward to sharing his knowledge about the district and featured architecture.

On April 4 at 11 a.m., Associate Dean Kathy Kenny will lead a walk from campus to Mercy Hill Church, up through residential Roosevelt, to the Japanese Friendship Garden, and then back via Central Avenue with a look at the historic Westward Ho on the way.

Kenny walks three or four miles every day on her own.

“When I tell people that, they're like, how do you have time? I'm like, you just make it. If you don't get it on your schedule, you don't do it,” she said. “I've lived downtown now for almost 40 years since I moved to Arizona. So I love it. But what I realize is that many of our faculty and staff come to work and they go home and they go to the parking garage or they get off of the bus or the transit, and they go home and they don't really know what our surroundings are. So as I thought about my walk, I wanted to show them a number of things.”

First stop: Mercy Hill Church, where students go to do student health outreach for wellness with residents of an associated apartment complex.

“A few of us are really familiar with that site, but most aren't,” Kenny said. “So I want to walk over there.”

Then the walkers will head up to the Japanese Friendship Garden, a 3.5 acre park on the edge of Hance Park featuring stone footbridges, lanterns, more than 50 varieties of plants, streams, a 12-foot waterfall, a tea house and a Koi pond with over 300 Koi fish. The garden’s designers chose plant species that can withstand desert heat while still reflecting the serenity of a Japanese garden.

“It's kind of a hidden gem,” she said. “And most of the people that I know are signed up with me probably have never been there. And then we'll come down around a little bit and come back to campus.”

The whole route is under 3 miles, with no hills.

Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer is also the university’s chief wellness officer. She has spent the last several months learning what ASU has and doesn’t have in terms of wellness initiatives.

“We have programming to die for here,” she said. “They're just siloed. People don't know about them. There's this program for on-campus freshmen, and there are programs for staff ... but they all require this idea that you have to do something more, something different in order to be part of the wellness: mindfulness, yoga. What I have found is that you have to make wellness of value.”

Everyone has their own wellness practices. They may use sunscreen or take the stairs or order the salad instead of a burger.

“For all those people, it's a wellness practice, and we always need to start there,” she said. “The other thing we need to do is make available what I call 'wellness bursts': opportunities that people can participate in without a lot of work, without a lot of like, 'Oh, I'm going to sign up for, you know, bike rides every Thursday.'”

Karshmer hopes to pass the practices on to the rest of the university.

“We want to make sure that wellness is not a drudge, but pleasant, fun and promotes not just physical, but emotional well-being and belongingness,” she said.

All of the walks will begin from the Health North courtyard. Wear a hat, put on your sunscreen and join. Water will be provided. Additional walks will be announced soon. Here are the walks so far scheduled.

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