Harvard University announced today (Jan. 20) that it will launch a running and walking program designed to build community and fitness among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors in Cambridge, Boston, and the surrounding area. The program will include weekly runs and walks organized by the University that are open to all Harvard and local community members.

Sponsored by Harvard President Drew Faust, the initiative, called “Harvard on the Move,” will kick off Wednesday (Jan. 26) at 4 p.m. with a panel discussion at Sanders Theatre featuring national experts on running, fitness, and well-being who are part of the Harvard community. The participants include Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology and department chair of Human Evolutionary Biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard; John J. Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; and Christopher McDougall, Harvard College alumnus and author of the bestselling book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.”

“Harvard on the Move offers a unique opportunity for Harvard’s many constituencies to come together outside the classroom and lecture halls,” said Faust, who plans to participate in the program’s inaugural walk on Feb. 1. “Whether you are a dedicated runner or a busy student or staff member determined to get in shape for the spring, I encourage you to come out, challenge yourself, and meet your colleagues for conversation and fitness.”

Studies have documented that vigorous walking and running, the oldest and most natural forms of exercise, can help people have longer and healthier lives, both physically and psychologically. Benefits include boosting cognition and improving mood, in addition to maintaining a healthy weight.

“Our society faces a growing health crisis,” said Lieberman. “Humans evolved to exercise vigorously almost every day, but recent technologies are changing our world so rapidly that the majority of us do not exercise enough.”

The new initiative also aims to enhance education and research on health and physiology. Coordinated through Harvard’s Center for Wellness, the training program will include weekly runs and walks along the Charles River, as well as free training sessions led by a coach and periodic instructional clinics on how to avoid injury and maintain endurance.

The first community walk will take place Tuesday (Feb. 1) at noon, leaving from the John Harvard Statue in Harvard Yard. Successive walks are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, and weekly runs are scheduled for Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 10 a.m.

In addition to the weekly runs and walks, Harvard on the Move will host a series of lectures led by Harvard faculty and staff throughout the spring on topics such as nutrition, physiology, and the evolution of human exercise. Harvard on the Move also will maintain a list of local and University-sponsored races for participants to join if they are looking for additional challenges and goal setting.

“As we get older, the physical-education dimension of our childhood and adolescence can get lost in the shuffle,” said Alexios Monopolis, the Harvard on the Move program manager and coach and a resident tutor in Kirkland House. “Our goal is to capture the sense of eagerness, exhilaration, and adventure we felt as kids during recess, as we take a break from our normal routines and actively spend time outdoors, interacting with members of our vibrant community with whom we may not have other opportunities to engage.”

An informational fair and book signing by the three panelists will follow the panel discussion. The Jan. 26 event is free and open to the Harvard community and the public. Request a ticket.

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