Hippocrates stated that it is man’s best medicine.
Thoreau said he could not stay healthy unless he did it for at least four hours every day.
Nietzsche pronounced that all great thoughts were conceived while doing it.
Mainstream culture is referring to it as “movement superfood.”
Me? I am grateful for each step I take because I know of the excruciating emotional pain associated with having my physical ability stripped away.
I inhale thick, earthy air and take a look around. I am surrounded by luscious, green trees. Sunlight flickers through their leaves and flashes in and out of my eyes. A squirrel rustles through the brush and skitters onto a log; watching me, sizing me up. I exhale that dense forest air and softly set my bare left foot in front of me. An acorn pushes into my sole. There is a twinge of discomfort, but my body quickly yields and allows my foot to contour to the terrain. I swing my right leg in front and set my foot down. This time the ground is soft and conducive to my skin. I continue one gentle step at a time; caressing the ground, not pounding into it. I enjoy the plethora of sensations the forest floor has to offer my proprioceptive nerves. It is like making love with Mother Earth. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual connection that makes everything feel just right.
When was the last time you took a walk? I mean a real walk. Not a walk on a treadmill. Not a tromp from your car into the grocery store. Not a quick jog around the block to let the dog do her business. I speak of the kind of walk where you feel the blood swell up in your hands because you have been out for so long. The kind of walk where there is no destination, only the sights and sounds of the journey at hand. The kind of walk that gets you in touch with your physical being: you feel your feet rolling through each step, you feel the muscles in your hips contract to propel yourself forwards, you feel the suave sway of your shoulders as you ambulate, and the subtle changes in your breath that coincide with the changes in terrain.
Take one as soon as you can. Be sure to appreciate it. Your ability to walk, although historically a birthright, is now a gift in the weak and sedentary modern world we humans have created. Some have never had the ability, but others have known of its pleasures and have lost it. Sometimes this breaks the man, sometimes the man learns to cope, but it is inarguable that he is never the same. Maximize your physical ability while you have it. Do not waste away with an “I’ll get around to it one day” mindset.
Walking is one of the best modes of movement that help one get in touch with their body, build vitality of the physical system, and promote a calm mind. Our culture has created an “exercise” paradigm in which we alternate between being sedentary the majority of our lives and attempting to remedy it by punishing ourselves at the gym or on the pavement for short bursts of intense activity. There is nothing inherently wrong with high-intensity protocols, but let us all take a step back. Our lives are too mentally stressful and too physically sedentary for this.
Chill out and take a long walk. Stroll through the woods and saunter through the town. Feel your body and observe your surroundings. Lose your casts – ahem, I mean shoes – if you want a truly rich experience. Consider the thoughtful words of John Muir: “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”