Physical Activity

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Engaging in regular physical activity is more than just a fun way to unwind. It can also help boost your energy and mood, manage stress, improve sleep quality, and promote weight control and overall health.

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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 more moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking from the subway stop and bicycling to the store can also count – so long as you do the activity for at least 10 minutes at a time and get your heart-rate up.

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 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults need at least:

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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 a free, instructor-led walking program on the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Medical Center campuses to help you incorporate more physical activity into your workday. Join us for kick-off walks featuring a group walk, dynamic stretches, and wellness swag bags. Stay connected with our weekly emails offering workout tips and program highlights including strength training workouts, healthy snacks, and more!
Walk to Wellness is collaboration between the Office of Work/Life, Dodge Fitness Center and PlusOne. This program is limited to Columbia faculty and staff. 

morningside campus walking map
morningside walking map for riverside park
manhattanville walking map south
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, contact the Office of Work/Life.

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

  • Crunch is a collection of state-of-the-art health clubs that has championed the cause of making serious exercise fun by pioneering a philosophy of entertainment and fitness. Crunch offers all Columbia employees and graduate students a 30% corporate discount on All Crunch and One Crunch month-to-month memberships. To get the discount, bring your Columbia University ID to your closest Crunch location. Download this flyer for more information and to get a free 3-day pass. Contact Randi Zinker to get more information. 
  • 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 $85/month, with no initiation fee. A 12-month commitment is required.  The membership includes access to all NYHRC club locations and all classes.  
    • 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 Kiel Brink, Corporate Wellness Director at (212) 220-0688 or kbrink@nyhrc.com.
  • New York Sports Club has over 160 locations featuring state-of-the-art cardio equipment, group exercises classes, cross-training programs, and more.  NYSC offers Columbia faculty and staff the opportunity to join without an enrollment fee for $59.95 per month and an annual fee of $49.95.  Membership can be canceled at any time for $40. To enroll or for more information, contact Melynda Egenberg or call (646) 553- 3351. Download this 3-day pass to check out NYSC for free. Interested Columbia employees should see the attached
  • 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 HR Benefits 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 Powered by Plus One 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, officers of administration, and staff, post-doctoral research fellows, alumni, and employees of Presbyterian Hospital, NYS Psychiatric Institute, 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 of 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.

Review these considerations to make your next meeting a walking meeting.

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.