Vigor in the Valley

As students, staying healthy is the key to our success


Photo by City of Eau Claire website

Eau Claire’s walking, running and biking trails are present throughout the city. Their paved ways provide venues for transportation, exercise and competition.

When I arrived in the Chippewa Valley two years ago as a first-year student at UW-Eau Claire, I considered myself distinctly athletic. If we’re being honest, I was a bit of a jock.  

I was fresh out of high school, where I’d seen my glory days of varsity sports. I used to frequent the weight room and drank protein shakes.

In the months to come, my relationship with my physical fitness would evolve immensely — and not for the better. I stopped prioritizing my health as school work became harder. I treated my stomach poorly — I couldn’t stop eating blueberry muffins for every meal!

Before coming to college, I treated activity as an outlet for stress. When I took exercise away from myself, my mental health suffered alongside my physical health.

The correlation between physical and mental health is well-studied. In fact, an article published in the Journal of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry highlights a correlation between the two.

“Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression,” the article reads. “These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress.”

Spending late nights in the library with my peers tells me I’m not the only student to experience a decline in health. As students, we’re working our brains harder than ever before. Quite frankly, we need a healthy outlet for our stress in order to survive.

But lucky for us, Eau Claire is an active city.

The numbers provide solid proof: 12.8 miles of trails wind around the city; four prominent bicycle vendors offer tune-ups; three yoga studios stretch the streets; two local baseball teams run the bases at Carson Park; one marathon event brings more than 3,000 runners to Eau Claire.

Of course, this leaves out a number of athletes who reside in the Valley, as athleticism takes many forms and makes it harder to tally.  

With the stress of city life comes opportunities for us to unwind. Over the course of this semester, I want to explore what it means to be healthy in the Chippewa Valley. There isn’t one-activity-fits-all answer, as our complex identities demand unique endeavors. Our community offers a wide variety of adventures — all one has to do is explore.

Neupert can be reached at [email protected].