The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Institute of Genomics opened an indoor health trail

On January 10, an indoor walking trail was opened in the three research and study buildings of two institutes of the University of Tartu. It is the first indoor trail in the buildings of the university.

The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) and the Institute of Genomics (IG) are located in three interconnected buildings: the historical building at Riia 23, the Citrina building that was opened in 1997 at Riia 23b/1, and the most recent Omicum at Riia 23b/2. The new trail will run through all the three buildings. It is 630 m long and goes 199 steps up and 220 steps down the stairs. 

The health trail is composed of three tracks that can be passed separately or in combination. All the tracks begin at the same starting point. On the route, it is possible to go to the rooms of both institutes and, for example, talk to colleagues from research groups working at the other end of the building.

How did the idea of the walking trail come about?

The idea to contribute more into employees’ mental and physical health emerged already three or four years ago. Art exhibitions are regularly displayed in the Omicum atrium to boost mental health. To maintain the employees’ physical health, the institutes first had the idea to start morning workouts in the atrium, but there was the problem of finding a suitable trainer and training style. Moreover, it was necessary to ensure that the training did not interfere with studies in the adjacent lecture halls.

Meanwhile, new heads were elected for the institutes and the ideas of maintaining physical health gained momentum. Director of the Institute of Genomics Mait Metspalu was the first to come up with the idea of a longer indoor health trail, which would give people a reason to take more than just a few hundred steps a day in the building, and to walk in corridors they would otherwise not go to. Director of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology Maia Kivisaar actively supported the idea.

In June 2021, a health trail working group was formed of representatives of both institutes and the first versions were soon completed.


As the first step, we planned the route of the trail – we worked out where it would be suitable and where it would interfere with work.

Dmitri Lubenets, the working environment representative at the IMCB and member of the health trail team

DNA, RNA and protein

The individual tracks of the health trail are called DNA, RNA and protein, which are the main objects of research and study at both institutes. The track names reflect real life, where DNA, RNA and proteins exist on their own, but are all needed for the functioning of both individual cells and the whole organism.

While planning the indoor health trail we consulted the team of Terviserajad who are highly competent in setting up indoor fitness trails. Their team encouraged us to think boldly, considering the specifics of our buildings.

Teele Eensaar, Teele Eensaar, Project Manager at the IMCB, member of the health trail team

As a coincidence, artist Ülle Ottokar started to work in our buildings in the summer of 2021, and she not only designed the trail marks but also made sketches of our staff members doing the exercises. The latter are real works of art and could be displayed in an exhibition.


Sulev Kuuse, Vivarium Manager at the IMCB and member of the health trail team

The people from Terviserajad also suggested that magnetic jigsaw puzzles be fixed to metal doors, as this would offer a mental challenge in addition to the physical effort, and the team wholeheartedly agreed. The team came up with the idea that the puzzles could depict the institutes’ research objects. Thus, one can now piece together, for example, the pupal wing of Drosophila, red blood cell on endometrium tissue, the population evolutionary tree, to name just a few.

As the budget allocated for the trail was not big, the trail team created several things themselves. For example, colleagues' eyes were photographed and the photos were combined into a unique a collage on a poster, which was set up with instructions for eye exercises. Several staff members were models for the exercises. Larger equipment was purchased from the Estonian University of Life Science’s fitness club that was closed down. The Swedish ladder wall was donated by a colleague, Janika Vana. The building manager’s team helped put up and fix the equipment.

It takes a team to create something big

It always takes a team to create something significant. We are glad that many people of both institutes participated in this project. We met a lot of enthusiasm and collaboration. 

Karoliina Kruusmaa, Communication Specialist at the IG and a member of the health trail team

The directors of both institutes are proud that the university’s first indoor health trail was opened in their buildings. In the future, the trail will definitely get additions, both in terms of equipment and new ideas.

In addition to the two institutes, the university's Human Resources Office supported the completion of the health trail. The creative director and the senior specialist for graphic design of the UT Press also contributed their time and ideas.

Photo gallery

Photo gallery of the opening (photos by Andres Tennus, University of Tartu)

Health trail in media

Articles about the health trail in Estonian media (content in Estonian).

Tartu Postimehe ajakirjanik Aime Jõgi kokkuvõte siseterviseraja avamisest 10. jaanuaril 2022. 

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