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The Best Exercise You Can Do

walkable

I took advantage of the weather today (it’s warm and sunny in January!!) to take a longer walk than I normally would.

Unfortunately, this amazing weather won’t last.  The temperatures will drop to below freezing tonight.   Regardless, I’ll continue to do a daily walk, since I love walking.

Why?  Walking is one of the keys to personal resilience.

I strongly believe that walking is by far the best exercise you can do.  Not only are the benefits amazing for your mind and body, it’s one of the few exercises you can do for your entire life.

In fact, it’s so good, it’s a mystery to me why a daily walking habit isn’t the bedrock of health education in public school.

NOTE:  A simple walk of two miles a day would do wonders for kids.  Not only would they would burn 40,000 more calories a year, returning them to weights we haven’t seen since 1960 in the US, they’d also: do better in school (daily exercise before class improves academic performance), be happier (walking improves mood), be healthier (blood pressure, sugars, etc.), etc.    For those that continue the habit, these benefits would carry into later life.   It’s amazing how many of these benefits are cognitive.

When did I start to walk regularly?

I was lucky.  A daily walk was a habit I picked up in childhood.  First by walking to elementary school daily and later by doing a 45 minute paper delivery route (back when kids delivered the news).   Since then, I fit it in whenever I can (particularly since it provides me an opportunity to do some deep thinking w/o interruptions).

Unfortunately, for many of us, walking isn’t part of our life.  It’s not a habit we are learning.

Why?

The communities that most of us live in aren’t designed to make walking or biking easy (here’s some help on seeing what’s possible).

walkable

They’ve been designed for driving.  They’ve been designed for a lifestyle that’s making us weak, fat and sick.   They’ve been designed for a lifestyle of dependence.

As we start to rebuild our communities for resilience, let’s make sure that walking is incorporated into every design decision.  Also, if you haven’t already, incorporate walking into your daily routine (at a minimum, take the stairs instead of the escalator).

Stay Resilient,

 

JOHN ROBB

 

PS:  One of the big reasons you might want to start to walk is that it will keep your brain young and alert as you age.  A couple of years back, Esquire magazine named me as one of the its “best and brightest.”  For the award, they flew me to New York for a two day event.  While there, I had a chance to talk to a scientist getting an award for his work on extending human life spans.  During a discussion we had, I found out that although medicine was extending lifespans at a fairly good clip, we haven’t made any progress extending the clarity of the mind.   In short, on average, the human mind fails in our late seventies.  So, our bodies will live longer but we won’t be mentally present to get any benefit.  Important lesson here?  Do everything you can to keep your brain young… like walking daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Valerie

    I enjoy your thoughts on resilient living and just had to comment about walking being the best exercise.

    I grew up on a farm at the end of the school bus route in the Sixties, and our house was situated two miles from the pickup spot. So my brothers and I had to walk (uphill both ways, of course, lol) four miles every school day for about 18 years.

    The habit is so deeply ingrained that now, at the age of 65, I would sooner go without dressing, showering, or brushing my teeth daily than forego my walks. I normally cover distances with my walking stick (for dogs needing an attitude adjustment) and daypack that many people wouldn’t DRIVE every day.

    Tomorrow I set out on a new rural loop of 15 miles. Sure, it takes longer now than it did when I was going to school, but I still git ‘er done. I’m healthy, close to normal weight, and have the hipbones of a 20-year-old, according to my doctor.

    Maybe I’ll do that marathon some day that my hubby keeps urging me to try for.

    If I could offer just one piece of advice for the youngsters (you included), it would be to make walking at least a couple of miles a daily MUST-DO, no matter how busy your life is. Exercise truly is the elixir of life.

  • Our sedendatry lifestyle all began went we “evolved” from being hunter-gatherers to farmers and cultivators.

    Along with the ability to store grain as a staple food our ancestors were then able to follow other pursuits, many of which no longer included much movement or physical activity.

    It is no surprise now because we are able to get from A to B while sitting in relative comfor,t that cities and communities were build around motorised transportation rather than pedestrian or bicycle traffic.

    People need to be made aware that most of today’s illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes (Type 2) can be prevented if they took a brisk walk for 30 minutes even three or four times a week.

  • Marcus Wynne

    Like the new look on the site, John! Clean and sharp.

    On walking — great exercise and good for the mind. A basic skill set that doesn’t get exercised. As a backpacker, I’ll share that the body mechanics involved in walking on the flat road change dramatically when you get on a rough trail or bushwhack; it takes about three days on the trail to get back that adaptation…all the more reason for people to walk, a lot, and to walk off road, a lot.

    One of the first things that disappear or go bad in a crisis are good stout shoes and socks. Hiking boots are great, but when you wear them day in and day out, for work as well as for walking, a lot of the lighter shoes will start to fray and wear pretty quickly. Having a few good, broken in, pairs of stout work and walking boots and several dozen pairs of good wool socks are a great investment.

    It’s also a really great way to get to know your neighborhood and define your functional transportation limits in an emergency — most people have an exaggerated estimate of their ability to walk carrying a load (light pack or a child, for instance). Walking any distance with any kind of load requires some adaptation and practice beforehand will make that much easier. Taking a walk with a street map, scouting out open space, short cuts, hidden pathways — the kind of thing we all did as kids — is a great way to prep for any kind of emergency, familiarize yourself with local resources (open space for guerrilla gardens, open water) as well as your neighbors.

    cheers, m The Resilient Nomad, who practices walking with a load daily!

  • Frank D'Andrea

    At 63 yrs old been speed walking 6 miles a day 6 days a week since 1994. It’s a part of my life. LOVE IT!!!

  • Todd S.

    I first realized that I could think much quicker and more clearly when standing than when sitting. Then I realized that my best, deepest thinking happened while walking. Even if walking had no physical health effects, I’d still do it for the clarity of thought I get from it. Now if I could just get in the habit of carrying a notebook with me so I don’t forget all that great thought by the time I get home.

  • Stealth Spaniel

    Thank you for the great article! Walking is such a blessing. Not only does it clear the mind, lower blood pressure, lower sugar levels, and reduce weight-walking also improves breathing and lung function, improves balance, and makes anyone stand and stride straighter and more correctly. My grandfather walked miles everyday of his life. He was lucid, stood straight and unbent with age. He was 100 when he passed away, and the man never took a pill in his life. I wish that our communities were more pedestrian friendly. Everyone is hung up on bike paths, all well and good. But for cheap, verifiable, natural health benefits, you just can’t beat walking.

  • Vernon Poirier

    20 years ago my Chiropractor explained to me that the muscles in your upper legs pump as much blood as your heart does, and that without walking your heart has to take up the slack. He also explained what he called “the spinal pump” and its roll in the movement of cerebral fluid. I had started downhill mountain biking a couple years before, (try THAT to get the blood pumping!) and continue riding/walking everywhere I go, except for when I use public transit. Save the money for retirement!

  • This is so true! When I was in Europe I noticed the majority of the population was much slimmer than what I was use to here in the United States. After spending two weeks there it finally hit me that Europeans walk EVERYWHERE. They walk to work, grocery store, nightclubs, etc. Very seldom do they take a vehicle anywhere unless it’s necessary.

    This year my wife and I are going to try and get better about taking walks. Not only is walking great for you but getting out in the sunlight for natural Vitamin D as well! Great post!

  • rosie

    Hi
    I agree that walking is blissful and a great way of exercising the muscles while getting rid of some cobwebs and setting the world to rights again. My note is one of safety; as a woman I wonder if I have the same opportunities to walk into the distance on my own? I do not feel particularly safe setting off for a walk in isolated woodland or along a distant railway track as anything could happen. Perhaps you will disagree with me – fair dos, but despite equality and serendipidy (it could happen to anyone) arguements, I still feel too vulnerable to go walking by myself which makes me unfortunately, vulnerable. I see lone male hikers and wish I could do the same but I don’t think it’s particularly advisable. If my 28yr old daughter planned to walk all day by herself on a woodland walk I’d be urging constraint.

    Rosie

    • John Robb

      Rosie,

      Hmmm. One good way to feel better about it is to walk with a good sized dog. If not yours, borrow from the neighbors (everyone loves to have their dog walked).

      John

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