Walk with purpose in the real world

Humans are the only striders โ€“ upright walkers. Other animals walk faster. But humans do it very efficiently. Our bodies and visual systems are designed to interact with world.

Benefits of walking
How long would you like to live? Walking speed is good predictor for how healthy you are and how long you will live. If seniors start to walk faster, they get healthier.

Walking is easy and cost-free. It also helps you think clearly and devise good ideas. The writer Henry David Thoreau said, “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

Regular movement such as walking is crucial for the body’s ability to regulate weight.

How to walk
Walking is better than not walking, so don’t get hung up on trying to do it perfectly.

I recommend purposeful walking that involves good interaction with the environment. Walk in the real world. Look around. Walking on different surfaces and in different weather forces the body and brain to cope with that. Your brain and senses love it if you sometimes walk barefoot or in minimalist footwear.

Walk as part of your normal activities, not necessarily as exercise. Walking when the opportunity arises. Short walks add up. Avoid speed walking, which can be very hard on your joints and back.

Think of walking as movement, not exercise. Human physiology needs movement over the course of a day to keep your hormones in balance. Walking burns off accumulated stress hormones. Exercise should be a supplement, not a substitute.

I am not enthusiastic about treadmill walking, which is unnatural. It has some benefits, chiefly that it is not sitting. But treadmill walking does not make us present in the world. We aren’t using our senses or brains, and we are on autopilot. People who get bored walking on a treadmill often distract themselves by watching a television screen. This confuses the brain and undermines some of the benefits of walking.

I like walking dogs because every walk is a new walk for them. They’re exploring. People say it’s so boring to do the same walk over and over. But that’s an attitude. Learn from your dog. They’re never doing the same walk and neither are you.

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