Campus walk launches new Health and Well-Being program

Principal Heather Munroe-Blum helped set the pace on a 20-minute walk around the downtown campus on Jan. 28 to the launch McGill’s Health and Well-Being Program for Faculty and Staff. / Photo: Daniel Cooper

By Jim Hynes

Approximately 125 members of the McGill community embarked on a brisk 20-minute walk around the downtown campus on Jan. 28 to launch a new program aimed at helping University faculty and staff improve their health and overall wellness.

The Health and Well-Being Program for Faculty and Staff is the initiative of McGill’s  Human Resources (HR) unit, in partnership with the McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association (MUNASA). It is the complement to a much larger project dealing with disability management. HR and MUNASA are collaborating closely on the program with groups like Athletics & Recreation and McGill Campus Community, to name a few, that have already taken steps in the promotion of staff wellbeing. Enthusiastic members of staff in both HR and the community at large have volunteered to be “champions” of the program and will be gathering information, and providing feedback, suggestions and new ideas.

In addition to monthly lunchtime information sessions discussing health related topics, the program will provide links to a wide variety of valuable health resources and promote healthy lifestyle practices via its website ( McGill staff will be encouraged to submit their ideas and share their stories and personal challenges to encourage and inspire their colleagues.

“The focus of the program is to establish a culture of health and wellbeing at the University, said Lynne Gervais, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Resources). “We want to create awareness of the benefits of healthy living and the positive impact it can have on overall physical and mental wellbeing. Making time in our busy lives for such activities takes effort but the advantages of being active are too numerous to mention.”

On Feb. 4, timed to coincide with Heart Month in Canada, the first lunchtime event, Love Your Heart, focused on healthy eating habits to reduce the risk of heart disease. On Feb. 26, in Sweating The Small Stuff, Jill Barker, Manager, Communications, Athletics & Recreation (and Montreal Gazette fitness columnist), will share practical, easy-to-follow tips on how small important lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on health, vitality and wellbeing. An event on the subject of Nutrition is planned for the Macdonald Campus in late March (Nutrition month).

If the program is anything like the walk that launched it, it should be a big hit with McGillians.

“I think it was a great initiative, so I wanted to lend my support,” said Joanne Graham, Personnel Administrator in the Office of the Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance). “It’s a fantastic way to encourage and support employees in achieving a higher level of health and wellbeing. The walk itself was a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of our campus with colleagues while supporting a great cause. I love the fact that so many took part. There was great energy.”

With perfect winter temperatures and a light snow falling, Barker led the assembled through a brief warm-up before the group set off on a winding walk through lower campus, with Principal Heather Munroe-Blum helping set the pace. The walkers then gathered in the Redpath Museum where the Principal and Gervais challenged participants to manage their wellbeing any way they can, be it through the practice of yoga or using a treadmill, climbing the stairs instead of taking the escalators, or walking to work instead of taking the bus or metro.  A number of door prizes, including free memberships to the McGill Staff Fitness Program, were handed out. Organizers also took advantage of the opportunity to collect donations in support of the Canadian Red Cross Haiti relief fund ($375 was raised).

A similar event took place on Feb. 2 at Macdonald Campus, where approximately 75 people joined Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean Chandra Madramootoo and  Gervais in a brisk walk around the campus grounds.

For more information on the Health and Well-Being Program for Faculty and Staff visit