Stress is always something that’s on the mind of Gustavus students. GustieWELL and the Peer Assistants (PAs) are aware of this issue and are constantly trying to find new ways to help. Over the month of October, the mental health awareness events known as “Walktober” were held.
“Research shows walking increases blood and energy flow to the brain, which improves acuity and function on a variety of levels. We created Walktober to encourage students to push pause, and venture around campus with a friend in hopes of not only taking their minds off daily stressors for a while but also to demonstrate the positive effect physical activity has on our mood,” Director of Peer Education and Chemical Health Laura Herbst-Johnson said.
Such a thing as walking may seem simple, but it can have real health benefits according to the National College Health Assessment (NCHA). This was the second year Walktober was held.
“GustieWELL and the Peer Assistants developed Walktober last year, and we’ve been fortunate to have ongoing help and support from SAVE and the Health Service to make this series of events happen. Last year we had about one hunderd students take part in Walktober, and 97 percent of participants reported improved moods after taking part in the walking events. That data is the reason we do this type of programming,” Herbst-Johnson said.
Participation in this year’s Walktober nearly doubled from last year. Each of the five Walktober events is aimed at improving the participant’s mood and spreading awareness about the health benefits of physical activity.
“I think Walktober will become a recurring event each year. Focusing on mental health, especially for stressed-out college students, is so important that I think Walktober could serve as an annual reminder to check up on how students are doing,” Sophomore PA Shae Archambault said. Walktober started at an important time in the year. Every year, October is the month when courses typically give midterm exams to their students.
The first Walktober event took place on Oct. 3. This event featured a “Poker Walk” where students would find the offices of such organizations as the PAs and GustieWELL. For each location visited, participants received a playing card in the hopes of ending the walk with a good poker hand. This was done with the intent of getting students more familiar with entering these places. Two other Walktober events had a similar idea behind them. The Scavenger Hunt (Oct. 17) and Trick-Or-Treating (Oct. 31) also had participants visit these offices. The two other special occasions featured in Walktober were both walk and talk events.
“The two walk and talk events were meant to be thought-provoking and growth producing. When we pause and intentionally think about habits we’d like to establish and goals we’d like to achieve, then share them with a friend, we verbally commit to making better decisions,” Herbst-Johnson said.
The total of five Walktober events were similar to those offered last year, and were aimed at the same goal.
“All these events were put on with the purpose of getting students out and moving around campus during the month of October, which is normally a stressful time with midterms. Additionally, it helps point students towards other mental health and general health resources on campus,” Archambault said.
The PAs worked to make the Walktober events as educational and helpful as possible and look forward to it being an annually occurring event. On top of the health benefits offered by the events, prizes were also offered to participants.
“The prizes for Walktober were actually really sick-the grand prizes were a pair of Vikings tickets and a $150 shopping spree to the Bookmark. In order to be eligible to win those, students must participate in at least four of the five events throughout the month. Additionally, each week there were prizes like gift cards given out to three participants so there were a lot of opportunities to win,” Archambault said.
The prizes were an added incentive used to attract more participants to the events. The PAs hope that by participating in these events that habits will be formed and healthy behaviors will be carried out by students past the month of October.
“The month of October can start to feel overwhelming for our students as it gets closer to midterms and the chaos of life starts to kick in. Stress and anxiety are the top two academic impediments for our students,” Herbst-Johnson said.
The Peer Assistants believe that keeping Gustavus students physically active even during times of stress is an important issue. Walktober was created specifically for this purpose.