- Exercise & Fitness
Walking and its many benefits
Walking only leaves footprints
Going for a walk
I try to go for a run most days. I do this for two reasons. Firstly I don’t particularly like exercise but I do believe it is very good for us humans to exercise and so I try and go for a run. Secondly, I own a big standard poodle, who needs the exercise. She starts getting anxious and annoying us around five o'clock if I have not seen to her run. It has to be running for her not walking. If I walk she spends her entire time straining on the lead.
Running, I have to admit is also the time when I have ideas for potential stories, articles and plots for novels. It is also a time when I solve work problems. So it is a time when my thoughts pursue whatever they want to pursue. It has many benefits for me.
However, what I rarely do these days, and what I did more of during my childhood, is go for a walk. And I don’t mean the go for a walk to walk the dog, or walk through the shops, but the sort of walk one goes on to simply walk.
Growing up in the mountains in Bavaria most weekends, if not all, were spent walking up to the top of a mountain. In hindsight, this walking, for no other purpose than to walk, was quite a beneficial weekend activity.
It was Thoreau who wrote about the benefit of walking, as it connects us with our essential wildness. According to Thoreau our ever sedentary lives has removed us from the joy and benefit of the art of walking. Imagine, Thoreau writing about humans being sedentary around the 1860’s. Imagine what he would think of us these days! Sedentary would not begin to describe us.
It is well worth reading Thoreau, all be it some of his ideals are simply not achievable to those of us who are stuck in the hamster wheel called work. Thoreau apparently believed one had to walk for at least for hours a day to obtain the most benefit. Thinking back on my child hood, I well and truly exceeded this with most hikes lasting all day.
Whilst many of us desk bound workers are unable to engage in the ideal of Thoreau’s walker, we can still try to engage in the art of walking.
Walking in the Australian Bush
Sure in our time of internet, face book, email and other numerous electronic media, walking may seem rather old fashioned, something one does when old, or to get to the car, the shops or the bus stop, and yet it is the very fact that walking takes us away from technology which makes it all the more attractive.
We are always told how to be more time efficient and how to cut down on time consuming things, and yet, what are we to do with this extra time? Watch television, go on the net, or spend more time on face book? Surely not.
Imagine just walking on the beach or through the bush, with nothing but your feet to move you forward and your senses to engage. You can let your mind wander, your imagination soar and your thoughts run wild. There is nothing to disturb you. You are simply walking for the sheer pleasure of walking.
With people constantly needing to be engaged through mobile phones, internet or the television, the peace and quiet experienced on a walk through the best nature has to offer can be revitalizing.
Thoreau was not the only one to praise the virtues of walking. “Go out and walk. That is the glory of life,” Maira Kalman wrote in her book My Favourite things.
Getting lost walking in a maze
To walk or not to walk
Walking is something many of us have to do. We have to walk to the bus stop, the train station, the car or the shops. It is not that we do not walk any more, but the point these authors make is that we don’t walk for the pleasure of walking anymore.
We are always trying to find ways to walk less as opposed to more. Remote controls have been invented so we do not have to get up and walk to change the channel on the TV or turn the heater on. We try and park as close to the shops as possible so we do not have to walk far to get to where we are going. The internet has meant that a lot of us do not even have to get up and go to the shops, with the shopping coming to us.
Why is it that at every step we try and reduce the need to walk? And at the same time we are being told, somewhere that we need to exercise more. A contradiction? I think so.
Perhaps the message needs to be changed. Instead of being told we need to walk for the many physical health benefits we need to be told to make time to saunter.
Walking at different times of the day
Meaning of Saunter
If you read Thoreau he says the following “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks – who had the genius so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived from ‘idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under the pretense of going a la Sainte Terre- to the wholly land.’
Instead of promoting time management devices, to save time for who knows what, people need to be encouraged to become saunterers again. Perhaps we need the children to exclaim again 'There goes a Sainte - Terrer, a Saunterer, which has a nice ring to it don't you agree.
I am sure there is a marketing opportunity for someone out there. Don't advertise quick fix ab busters, or the five minute work out, encourage people to become saunterers.
Here is a potential ad 'Anyone interested in coming sauntering please meet at the boat shed. It is not for the faint hearted.'
A new class of people
Thoreau explored becoming a new kind of knight. Not the equestrian or armored knight, but the walking kind.
Let's join Thoreau on becoming a walker. I know I will not manage four hours a day, maybe not even four hours a week, but I am going to try to become a saunterer, if only occasionally. The dog still wants her run mind you.