Physical Activity

Physical Activity Overview

Physical activity is any type of activity that gets your body moving. According to federal guidelines, two of the most important kinds of activities are aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activities.

Aerobic physical activity or "cardio" gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. Traditionally, we think of vigorous-intensity activities like running and swimming, but moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking from the subway stop and bicycling to the store can also count.

Muscle-strengthening activities, or resistance training, work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, buttocks, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). Examples include working with resistance bands, lifting weights, shoveling snow, and yoga. The most important thing is that they need to be done to a point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help. 

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Recommended Physical Activity

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommend that adults:

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Office of Work/Life Resources

The Office of Work/Life develops and offers programs and initiatives designed to help you meet the recommended federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activity, if able.

Walking is a simple form of physical activity that can be done almost anywhere. With many notable health benefits, walking is also a powerful tool to strengthen relationships and engage with your colleagues, families, and community members.

Walk to Wellness is returning this fall as a digital walking challenge using the mobile app MoveSpring! Over the course of the five weeks, participants on each campus will compete by logging their steps on MoveSpring to determine which campus clocks in the highest average daily steps by the challenge end.  Register by Thursday, September 12, 2019!

Challenge Perks: Garmin is offering 35% off fitness trackers for Columbia University employees. Visit the group membership website and enter your Columbia University email address, then follow email instructions to set up your account. A Garmin fitness tracker is not required to participate in the challenge.

morningside campus walking map
morningside walking map for riverside park
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manhattanville walking map riverbank state park
CUMC walking map hudson greenway
CUMC walking map hudson greenway

The League of American Bicyclists named Columbia University as a Bicycle Friendly University in 2014 and a Bicycle Friendly Business in 2015.

Bicycling is one of the most healthy, economically-efficient, fun, and environmentally-friendly ways to commute. Ranked among the top forms of exercise to improve cardiovascular fitness, bicycling to work, school, or other destinations as part of one’s regular daily routine can be both a sustainable and time-efficient exercise regimen for achieving adequate aerobic fitness levels, reducing cardiovascular risk, and preventing weight gain.

The Office of Work/Life offers free on-campus bicycling workshops to help you improve your bicycling skills and become a confident, safe bicyclist. Workshop offerings include: Bicycle Maintenance 101, Bicycle Commuting 101, Family Cycling 101, and Bicycling Street Skills.

To learn more about getting to Columbia by bike and Columbia bicycle services and resources, including bicycling discounts, visit transportation.columbia.edu. To receive updates about bicycle-related activities at Columbia, including group rides and free bike maintenance events, join Columbia's Bicycle Interest Group.

Bicycle Friendly Business Silver Medal
Bicycle Friendly University Bronze Medal

The Take the Stairs campaign encourages the Columbia community to choose the stairs instead of the elevator as a quick way to add physical activity to your day and save electricity.  In fact, stair climbing burns almost 700% more calories when compared to taking the elevator and has been shown to raise good cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.  

Through the campaign, we have engaged several departments and schools in fun team challenges that encourage increased stair use.

To learn more about the campaign or to discuss scheduling a stair challenge in your building or department, contact the Office of Work/Life .

Combining physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation, yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Current research suggests that practicing yoga may reduce pain and stress, lower heart rate and blood pressure, relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.

An initiative of the Office of Work/Life and Columbia Physical Education and Recreation, Yoga@Work is a challenging yet relaxing yoga experience focused on increasing flexibility, strengthening mind and body, and improving range of motion through postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation/meditation techniques.

To learn more or to discuss scheduling a session or series in your building or department, please fill out this brief form.

You can also access our yoga video series here.

The Office of Work/Life maintains several gym, fitness, and wellness discounts as listed below.

  • Crunch is a gym that prides themselves on having a judgment-free, empowering environment. Crunch offers all Columbia University faculty, staff and students a discounted rate on all-access or one-club access month-to-month memberships. Enjoy full-service locker rooms after a hard workout and stay motivated on the go with their fitness app! Download this flyer* for additional details and to get a free 5-day guest pass. Contact Randi Zinker for additional questions and enrollment. 
  • New York Health & Racquet Club (NYHRC) is a full-service health club with fantastic amenities including over 600 weekly classes; racquetball, basketball and squash courts; state-of-the-art equipment; pools and spa facilities; personal training; babysitting; and much more. NYHRC offers Columbia faculty and staff a discounted membership of $89/month with no initiation fee. A 6-month minimum commitment is required. The membership includes access to all NYHRC club locations and all classes. The membership flyer can be accessed here.
    • Stop by the Work/Life office in the North Gallery (balcony behind the statues) on the 4th floor of Low Library to request a free one-week membership to try the facilities. Enroll online using your Columbia.edu email. For more information, please contact Jensey Cordero, Corporate Wellness Director at (212) 220-0688 or jcordero@nyhrc.com
  • New York Sports Club (NYSC, BSC, WSC, PSC) has over 150 locations featuring state-of-the-art cardio equipment, group exercises classes, cross-training programs, and more. Columbia faculty and staff can enroll with a $49.99 annual fee due up front.  Membership is month to month, 30 day notice to cancel. To enroll or for more information, contact Melynda Blake or call (646) 553- 3351. Download this 3-day pass to check out NYSC for free. 
  • Access to Columbia fitness centers is available on the Morningside and Medical Center campuses.

Additional wellness discounts are available to Columbia faculty and staff through Aetna Columbia Dental Plan’s GlobalFit Benefit and Humana Employee Assistance Program Spendless Discount Program Benefit.

Columbia has also partnered with local vendors that provide discounts for Columbia affiliates on sales, bike rentals, maintenance, parts and accessories at local bike shops with your Columbia ID. Visit Columbia Transportation for more information.

For a comprehensive listing of other discounts, including computers, phones, arts, and travel, visit the Human Resources website.

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Columbia University Resources

Besides our own programs and initiatives, you can also get involved with these other Columbia wellness programs and resources.

Dodge Fitness Center provides Columbia students, faculty, staff, alumni, and affiliates fitness opportunities and exercise space on the Morningside campus. Memberships are available at a competitive, reduced rate. Visit the Dodge website for information about membership options.

NYPH Fitness Center powered by Plus One is exclusively for New York Presbyterian Hospital employees, retirees, Columbia University employees, students, and alumni. The 6,500 square foot, state-of-the-art NYPH Employee Fitness Center is a fun, effective and convenient place to get fit. Membership is $60 per month. Call (212) 305-1800 or email NYPres@plusone.com for more information. 

Bard Athletic Center is located in Bard Hall, Columbia University Medical Center. Memberships to this facility are available to Medical Center students, faculty, staff, post-doctoral research fellows, alumni, and employees of Presbyterian Hospital, NYS Psychiatric Institute, and Audubon Research Park. All eligible employees and their spouse/domestic partner may gain access to the facility and equipment by purchasing either Trip Tickets or an Annual Membership Package.

Employee Assistance Program
The EAP is a network of services, including short-term counseling and life coaching, to help faculty, staff, and their household members cope with everyday issues including stress, relationships, depression, and addiction. Humana's professional counselors are available 24 hours, 7 days a week at 888-673-1153.

Gym and Wellness Discounts are available for eligible employees through Humana Employee Assistance Program Spendless Discount Program Benefit. 

Columbia Dental Plan
Gym and Wellness Discounts are available for eligible employees through Aetna Columbia Dental Plan’s GlobalFit Benefit.

Wellness Coaching is a healthy lifestyle program available to Columbia University medical plan participants and dependents at no additional cost.  Work with a wellness coach telephonically with additional web-based support to help you eat better, move more, and lose weight.   

To learn more or to enroll, call United Healthcare at 800-232-9357.

RALLY is an engaging digital health experience that starts with a quick health survey to measure your overall health and then recommends simple activities designed to help improve your diet, fitness, and mood and can support weight loss. 

Rally is available through www.myuhc.com or visit www.columbia.werally.com.

For more information or to learn if you are eligible, call United Healthcare at 800-232-9357.

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External Resources

Looking for more? Here are resources outside of Columbia.

Visit the CDC’s website for further information about what counts or does not count as physical activity.

Join the Every Body Walk! Collaborative to spread the message that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week really can improve your overall health and prevent disease.

Get inspired with Move it Monday simple workouts, tips, and inspiration to help you incorporate physical activity into your weekly routine.

Access Shape Up NYC’s free, drop-in fitness program with locations across the five boroughs.

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