Walk for Better Focus and Health

Patricia Thurston walking on campus
Patricia Thurston walking on campus; photo by Robert DeSanto

One recent lunchtime, Patricia Thurston, a unit manager for monographic ordering and non-Latin script receipt and cataloging at Yale Library Technical Services, left her desk in 344 Winchester Avenue to go for a walk — an essential part of her workday routine. Outside, the sun was bright and the wind was brisk; she turned right out of the parking lot and headed past Ricky D’s Rib Shack and Fussy Coffee on her way to the Farmington Canal Greenway.

Patricia was on one of the five outdoor walking routes mapped out by Being Well at Yale — she takes the Science Park route (1.2 miles). Others include Central Campus (two routes, 1.25 and 1.75 miles); the School of Medicine campus (two routes, 1 and 2 miles); Science Hill and East Rock (two routes, 1.35 and 2.2 miles); and the Peabody Loop (2.75 miles).

“Walking is a low impact, adaptable form of movement that supports physical and mental health and is vital for healthy aging,” said Lisa Kimmel, director of wellness and education at Yale Health. “And walking outdoors adds the extra benefits of connecting with nature, improving your mood, and reducing stress.”

Out on the Greenway, Patricia continued south, passing the skateboarders in Scantlebury Park, until she reached the Yale Health Center. She turned left onto Sachem Street, past the entrance to “The Whale” (Yale’s David S. Ingalls hockey rink), and up Prospect Street.

Walking gives me the chance to refocus.

Patricia has walked this route at least twice a week for seven years, but it never gets old, thanks to the scenery’s subtle seasonal shifts. As she passed Farnam Memorial Garden, she took note of the newly budded branches on the garden’s trio of weeping beeches. Farther down Prospect Street, small home gardens, still fallow now, would soon fill with vegetables and flowers. By the time she returned to her office on Winchester Avenue, she felt recharged.

“When I get back to my desk,” says Patricia, “I can tell that the change of scenery has been good for me; it gives me the chance to refocus, to see things from a different perspective.”

West Campus nature trailWest Campus nature trail; photo by Michael Marsland

Take a nature walk

Walking in woodland trails offers additional benefits: one recent study found that two hours a week in green spaces “is an antidote for stress: It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood.”

Yale West Campus offers ample opportunities to experience the therapeutic benefits of nature. These include wooded trails that run the length of the 136-acre campus, along the Oyster River. One lunchtime option might be the walk from the Conference Center to the West Campus Barn, via the Yale School of Nursing, which measures 1.5 miles.

Other nearby trails that promise immersion in nature include the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (56 miles) and the Farmington River Trail (18 miles), and the Quinnipiac River trails (38 miles).

Daffodils on College Street (part of the Old Campus/New Haven Green walking route)Daffodils on College Street (part of the Old Campus/New Haven Green walking route); Photo by Robert DeSanto

Find campus flowers

When Robin Soltesz, financial analyst at Yale Health, is on campus, she likes to pick new routes to walk during lunch. Her perambulations have taught her where to find the best blooming flowers in the spring and summer. “The campus grounds, as well as many of the buildings around Yale, have lots of interesting things to offer,” says Robin. “You just have to be willing to open your eyes.”

Here are some of Robin’s favorite campus blooms:

  • Globemasters:
    Many of these showy flowers can be found on Elm Street by Hopper College. “Globemasters are my favorite,” says Robin. “I love watching their progress as we get further into spring. They grow very tall and when they fully bloom, they produce very large, vibrant purple and white ‘globes’ every year.”
  • Daffodils:
    The entrance to the Whale (David S. Ingalls hockey rink), Robin says, is “one of several locations around campus that offers a large concentration of flowers in a single area.”
  • Tulips:
    Temple Street between Wall and Elm offers an interesting variety of tulips, while the walkway between Pauli Murray & Benjamin Franklin Colleges offers “vibrant large red tulips sprinkled between mini daffodils.”
  • Flowering trees:
    In the late spring and early summer, trees on Whitney Avenue between Sachem and the New Haven Museum create a canopy of petals.

Send us your favorite walking route around campus: youryalenews@yale.edu.