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First Person

Recess monitor

Cambridge resident Alexios Monopolis, 29, leads Harvard on the Move, the university's new program to get all of Boston exercising.

By Laura Colarusso
March 13, 2011

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What are your goals for the program?

I consider this Harvard’s version of elementary school recess. We want to get people outside so they can take a mental break. We want to inspire people to be fit by having weekly walks and runs as a group.

How is it like recess?

Exercise should be fun. When I say the word “recess,” people light up and smile. Our goal is to capture the sense of exhilaration and adventure we had as kids.

Why is Harvard starting this now?

We evolved to move, but our lifestyles nowadays are much more sedentary. Most of us spend our days staring at a computer screen, so we don’t have as many opportunities to run or walk.

How is this different from other exercise clubs?

There is an academic component that will help translate research into practice. We will have [monthly] public lectures on everything from injury prevention to barefoot running. We want to make people aware of the psychological and physiological benefits of exercise.

So what are the mental health benefits?

Exercise can increase cognition, enhance memory, and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. My own research revolves around positive psychology – the science of happiness. I’m interested in examining the effects of programs like Harvard on the Move on mental health.

What are your plans for expansion?

My personal goal is to eventually incorporate other outdoor activities like hiking, trail running, cycling, swimming, and kayaking.

Why did you choose to include everyone, rather than just Harvard affiliates?

Wellness is a right. It’s not a privilege. Harvard has the resources to be inclusive and promote outdoor wellness, not just within the university, but with our Boston and Cambridge neighbors.

How has the response been so far?

We’ve had as many as 40 participants on weekends. Considering the weather, it’s a success. [Harvard president] Drew Faust herself is an avid walker; she’s the reason this exists. She came out Tuesday to walk with us.

(Photograph by Ion Sokhos)
  • March 13, 2011 cover
  • March 13 cover
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