Walking is obviously wonderful. You can’t blink an eye these days without some news about the wonders of walking flash by. It’s a radical act in fast paced world. Walking makes us wiser. It makes us healthier, happier, and brainier. Even if it doesn’t necessarily make you thinner, it’s still a pretty wonderful thing.
A few years ago Adam Gopnick penned, Heaven’s Gait: What We Do When We Walk which covers both contemplative walking and walking as a sport.
So walking is pretty wonderful. But a bit like the claims about handwriting versus laptop use, you’ve got to wonder, is that true for all of us? Not everyone can hand write. Not everyone walks. I mean, some people get around in wheelchairs. I’m in much less pain riding my bike. Why the focus on walking? What’s unique about it?
We need to distinguish between movement and the idea that most of our bodies are at their best when moving, and walking is one very easy, and for most people, natural way of getting about in the world.
But while walking is one way of getting around, it’s not the only way. It’s not just walking that helps us think better. Cycling helps our brains too.
There are lots of different ways of moving. I’ve written before about crawling and discomfort with it even if, for some people, that’s a speedy and efficient way of getting around.
In terms of the mental benefits of navigating terrain and following directions that’s true for wheel chair users too.
We should be careful when writing about walking to make it clear whether the benefits we’re talking about are specific to walking or whether they apply to other forms of physical activity as well. We should take note that while working is an easy form of physical activity for most people, that’s not true for everyone, a fact of which I’ve been made painfully aware these last few years.
That doesn’t mean if there are benefits unique to walking that we can’t talk about them. But we do need to recognize that they’re equally available to all.
Also, we should all take care. Walking is increasingly dangerous as pedestrian deaths are on the rise in both the US and Canada. That’s what the headlines say but as I read it it just sounds wrong, like people are dying from walking. I like the CBC’s version better: Drivers are killing more pedestrians every year. Watch out!