The Joy of Walking

Walking Man by Victor Bauer
(c) Victor Bauer

Is there a more pleasant, refreshing, healthy, and philosophical activity than walking? Most of us take walking for granted, doing it because we have to, as a means to an end: to reach the grocery shop across the street, to lose weight, or to take the dog out. But is it not a delightful activity in itself, worth pursing for the simple pleasures it brings, such as the fresh breaths of air, the sounds, images, smells, and sensations of nature and of civilization, the opportunity to observe people from different backgrounds in all manner of situations, of being closer to nature?

My lifelong enthusiasm for walking was recently aggravated by the story of the tetraplegic Ramon Sampredro, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a diving accident and spend 28 years on his back in a bed. I walk twice a day, early in the morning and late at night, and though for the time being I cannot go farther than my neighborhood, I look forward to my walks as the highlights of my day.

For writers, walking is a necessary activity. There’s a similarity between walking and writing, best explained by Michel de Certeau:

Writing is one way of making the world our own, and walking is another.

Why walk?

  • It’s enjoyable.
  • It’s healthy. Brisk walking helps reduce body fat and lower blood pressure, helping to decrease the risk of heart attack and bone fracture, and of developing type 2 diabetes or colon cancer. Additionally, brisk walking can reduce stress and depression levels as well as improve cancer survival rates. It also relieves symptoms of depression.
  • It’s good for your brain. Walking increases the blood flow to the brain and, at least in elderly people, can increase their thinking skills. It’s unsurprising that many great philosophers and artists were avid walkers.
  • It’s free. While operating a car costs around $5,170 annually, walking is free. Also, if you walk 3 or more times a week for a half hour or more you are saving $330 a year in health care costs.

Walking As An Art

There are two approaches to walking:

  • stilling your thoughts, clearing your mind of worries, and observing the details around you: the vegetation, architecture, and people going about their business
  • or focusing inwardly, on your pressing concerns — in other words, thinking on your feet

The posture matters. It must be straight without being stiff, with the shoulders level and chin up. Eye contact, especially with lovable people, is encouraged. Yet every now and then one must glance at the ground, in the hope of discovering a lost wallet which, kindly returned to the owner, could lead to an unexpected romance, or at least to a hefty recompense.

Awareness of your pace and breathing are important; an agreeable rhythm must be sought and, with practice, attained.

All the senses must be opened to receive the charms of nature, the colors, light, textures, smells, and sounds.

The shoes must allow you to feel the texture of the ground without detriment to your soles.

As to whether you should wear headphones or not, it’s up to you, but I can say that my walks have become more enjoyable since I began leaving my headphones at home. You’re more connected with nature without headphones, and less likely to be run over by a car. That said, headphones are great when you’re walking in the city and must face noisy traffic and rowdy crowds. Headphones can make you feel almost invisible.

But remember, like all things, walking must be enjoyed with moderation!

The human backbone was ‘not designed for working in the vertical position of walking on two legs’, hence sore backs, arthritis, and disk injuries. And let us not forget what happened to Stephen King… A person is 36 more times likely to be killed walking than by driving a car.

Closing Thoughts

The great thing about walking is that it’s slow. The average human walking speed is about 5.0 kilometers per hour. When I walk and cars rush past me, I cannot but feel a little sorry for those hurried drivers. They are moving so fast that they are missing something, from nature, from life. They don’t see the things along the road, not well enough…

Do you enjoy walking? How much do you walk every day?

*All facts are taken from reliable sources which, out of convenience, are not here named.

38 thoughts on “The Joy of Walking

  1. For me some walk is needed everyday (even if it is just to go the store) but as often as I can, I go for a walk to think/put things in order/relax… and ( the most enjoyable thing of all) look the world around me.
    I have loved this post! As a reminder of the great simple actions we can do but sometimes we forget 🙂

      1. Many times! But I have no problem in asking if possible (asking, one gets to Rome) And you?

  2. What a wonderful article about walking. Like you, I decided to leave my headphones behind. I get so much more peace and mind expansion without music to divert me away from my surroundings. It also opens me up to human contact.

  3. I just opened Safari on my phone and realized I had three separate pages opened to your site. I just thought you should know.

    I love walking, too. Especially on cool evenings or mornings when my mind can wander, and write.

    1. Good to know that Jessica hasn’t forgotten a faraway boy, at least not yet…

      When you’re walking away from home, do you ever look for lost things on the ground?

      1. She could never ever ever forget you. So please don’t say things like that.

        I notice many things on the ground while walking — and wonder from where they came, and to where they are going.

  4. I walk for an hour or two late at night or early in the morning. It help’s me become inspired. So when I come home I am ready to write. It’s one of the two situations that I am willingly leave the house.

          1. I can’t affirm whether it increases height! However, as it is exhausting, such exercise requires more sleep. And with more sleep, I guess increases the likelihood of growing? 🙂

  5. Several years ago, I developed a severe combination of metatarsalgia and neuropathy in my left foot. I went from being a somewhat avid runner to a guy who can’t walk more than a few hundred meters without having to sit and rest.
    You’re exactly right about walking. I believe it makes smart people even smarter. Since I’ve been less able to indulge, my brain has become a sorry mush.

  6. I have a favourite 4km walk along a nearby shoreline, wherein I look out to the horizon and pretend the earth is still flat, with a great nothingness beyond what I can see. Soothing for mind, body and soul.

  7. I too enjoy walking, once a day, I think the oxygen battles some monsters in my brain 🙂

  8. It’s funny that you should post this on August 16th… I moved to New York City on Aug. 16th, and I have never walked so much in my life! But, interestingly, the pace of walkers in the city have proven, mostly, to be of the hurried type.. with no time to really think or observe. Everyone’s got their eyes on their destination, and in an attempt to avoid being swallowed up by the rush, I have to quicken my speed from what it normally is. Do you think it’s possible for people to enjoy the same soul-support benefits when they’re not walking leisurely?

    1. I’m not sure about that, but fast walking is certainly good for the heart and lungs. I’m reading about ‘walking meditation’ now and the emphasis is on slowness.

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