Walking can be such a pleasurable activity that perhaps you need no further reason to get out and walk. However, should you be in search of one, this book has ten – and they’re all compelling! As the following pages will attempt to illustrate, walking offers all the essential ingredients for a combined feast able to make us healthier, cleverer, fitter, better(looking), happier and more besides… And yet despite all the current excitement around the themes of health and wellness to which it belongs, walking is in decline. It rarely gets the airtime it deserves in respect of the innumerable benefits it brings, not only to us as individuals, but also to society as a whole. Our aim is a modest endeavor to redress this imbalance.
Learning to walk is a hard-won achievement that consumes the first year of our lives. But thereafter we have a tendency to take it for granted, letting it slip into the realm of the mechanistic. It becomes one of the simplest, most basic, most natural and most common of human activities. We do it daily, until old age or disease stops us, and yet perhaps because our very humanness is in part defined by this unique ability to move around upright on our own two legs, walking retains the power to strike a deep chord within many of us. Going for a walk can be a means of getting from A to B; or just an end in itself, in which case it becomes a ritual, an exploration, a form of meditation, or simply a gentle kind of physical exercise. It is one of the few activities in which we can engage at our own pace/ leisure, bound by no rules, needing little or no kit, that potentially fulfils such a variety of functions: quest for meaning, meandering, a thought, an experience, a sense of freedom, pleasure, and else…(we need to discuss this list..) When we walk, we depart and we arrive, both from a practical and idealistic perspective; this interval between beginning and end sharpens our senses and makes us more aware of ourselves and of our environments.
We can walk alone, in the company of someone, or as part of a group. When done with others the shared physical and mental experience of walking together is an ideal way to reconnect with friends or to connect with a stranger, to form friendship, to socialize and to begin a conversation. When done alone, it becomes an encounter with oneself: one’s thoughts, feelings, imagination, world and intimacy. Almost any walk rewards us with an idea, a thought or an inspiration. More often than not, it’s also a great source of pleasure and satisfaction/wellbeing.
“10 Good Reasons To Go for a Walk” is something of a hybrid: positioned between a short essay, a light academic book and a self-help guide. It partakes of both theory and practical examples, although it is neither a work of theory nor a compilation of the existing literature about the benefits of walking. It falls somewhere in the middle and is primarily explanatory.
Our reader should approach it as a modest attempt to bring under one umbrella some pertinent insights from disciplines as diverse as neuroscience, medicine, psychology, economics, anthropology, etc. All are somehow connected and converge in corroborating the incontrovertible evidence that: in a vast variety of ways walking is good not only for us as individuals, but also for society as a whole. What are these ten good reasons for which we should decide to go for a walk? They are both micro (benefitting the individual) and macro (benefitting society).
- It’s good for the body
- It’s good for the brain
- It’s good for the mind
- It’s good for decision-making
- It’s a good antidote to the madness of an accelerating world
- It’s good for equality – It’s a (small) manifesto against inequalities –
- It’s good for the economy
- It’s good for the environment
- It’s going to be made compulsory (so get used to it!)
- It’s recommended by novelists and philosophers (embraced)
The subject of walking, and the literature on it, are simply gigantic and could have led to a book of hundreds of pages; but that was not the objective: we wanted to make it short and simple without being simplistic. The argument is rigorous without being academic (or boring…), and there are plenty of facts and snippets to prove the different points. The chapters are of course all interconnected, but can be read independently from each other. You can skip one and move to the next… For easy of reading, there are no footnotes and very few direct attributions; all the sources and references can be found in an annotated list at the end of the book. We’d be thrilled if it incites some of you who are not a priori keen on walking to change your minds.
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