Solvitur Ambulando: It Is Solved By Walking

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 22, 2013 · 83 comments

in Travel & Leisure

muir

“It is the best of humanity, I think, that goes out to walk. In happy hours all affairs may be wisely postponed for this. Dr. Johnson said, ‘Few men know how to take a walk,’ and it is pretty certain that Dr. Johnson was not one of those few. It is a fine art; there are degrees of proficiency, and we distinguish the professors from the apprentices. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good-humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence, and nothing too much. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, and if they add words, it is only when words are better than silence. But a vain talker profanes the river and the forest, and is nothing like so good company as a dog.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Country Life,” 1857

“Your true kingdom is just around you, and your leg is your scepter. A muscular, manly leg, one untarnished by sloth or sensuality, is a wonderful thing.” –Alfred Barron, Foot Notes, Or, Walking as a Fine Art, 1875

Solvitur ambulando.

It’s a Latin phrase that literally means, “It is solved by walking.” Or, a little more loosely, “It is solved by walking around.”

Walking? “What problems have ever been solved by walking?” you may be asking yourself.

True enough, there is hardly anything more simple and less exciting than walking. It’s one of our first developmental milestones as babies, and once you take those initial toddling steps, neither you, nor those around you, take much notice of your walking ever again. If you happen to think about walking later in life, images of elderly women decked out in windsuits and circling the mall in the early morning hours may come to mind. Indeed, so unsexy is walking that our word for a person who travels by foot — pedestrian — is also a synonym for “dull” and “ordinary.”

‘Twas not always so, however. There was a time in which writers and philosophers wrote poems and paeans to the humble walk, publishing books and essays with titles such as “The Reveries of the Solitary Walker,” “In Praise of Walking,” and “Walking as a Fine Art.” Bipedal locomotion was referred to as “the manly art of walking,” and enrollment in the “noble army of walkers” was encouraged.

Did these long-dead bipedaling boosters know something that modern men do not? While walking’s simplicity may seem like a mark against it, perhaps its rudimentary nature is just the thing to bring us back to life’s much needed basics. Walking upright is part of what makes us human, after all, and who wouldn’t benefit from getting in touch with their humanity a little more often?

Walking is the world’s most democratic activity – it is open to almost everyone, whether young or old, rich or poor. It can be participated in no matter where you are. One can walk to work, stroll around their neighborhood, stride down city blocks, ramble through a parking lot, or saunter over hill and dale. All it takes to begin is placing one foot in front of the other. Despite this accessibility, we probably do less walking these days than ever before in history – the bulk of our day is spent riding, driving, and sitting.

Yet, taking the time to fit in more walking wherever and whenever we can, and putting our legs to their intended use, is a worthwhile endeavor. Below we discuss 11 “problems” that can be “solved” through the completely free remedy of taking a walk. We’ve also peppered the post with some of the best and pithiest quotes that we dug up from the surprisingly robust canon of walking literature. Think of this piece as one part article, one part quote repository. Read it through in one fell swoop, or come back to it from time to time when you need some motivation to get yourself out the door.

Solvitur ambulando.

Need a cheap form of transportation?

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“For most urbanites there is the opportunity for the daily walk to and from work, if only they were not tempted by the wheel of the street car or motor. During the subway strike in New York not long ago I saw ablebodied men riding in improvised barges or buses going at a slower-than-walking pace, because, I suppose, though still possessed of legs, these cliff-dwellers had become enslaved by wheels, just like the old mythical Ixion who was tied to one.” –John Finley, “Traveling Afoot,” 1917

“When I see the discomforts that ablebodied American men will put up with rather than go a mile or half a mile on foot, the abuses they will tolerate and encourage, crowding the street car on a little fall in the temperature or the appearance of an inch or two of snow, packing up to overflowing, dangling to the straps, treading on each other’s toes, breathing each other’s breaths, crushing the women and children, hanging by tooth and nail to a square inch of the platform, imperiling their limbs and killing the horses—I think the commonest tramp in the street has good reason to felicitate himself on his rare privilege of going afoot. Indeed, a race that neglects or despises this primitive gift, that fears the touch of the soil, that has no footpaths, no community of ownership in the land which they imply, that warns off the walker as a trespasser, that knows no way but the highway, the carriage-way, that forgets the stile, the foot-bridge, that even ignores the rights of the pedestrian in the public road, providing no escape for him but in the ditch or up the bank, is in a fair way to far more serious degeneracy.” –John Burroughs, “The Exhilarations of the Road,” 1895

Obviously, the most basic, primitive function of walking is to get from A to B. Foot-power requires no money, and no energy source besides a peanut butter sandwich. Yet, as Burroughs lamented over a century ago, as soon as motorized transportation was invented, people would do most anything to avoid having to hoof it. For some it’s a matter of convenience, often real, sometimes only perceived; many do not think of walking for even the shortest of errands, choosing to drive even when getting into one’s car and finding a parking spot can take almost as long. Others see walking as a safety hazard; I’m always amazed at the number of parents in SUVs that line up in my neighborhood in the afternoon in order to whisk their children right from the bus the quarter-mile to their house. Many folks, on the other hand, do wish they could walk more to get where they need to be, but their city/town was not laid out with any concern for pedestrian transportation. For someone who grew up in such a pedestrian-antagonistic town, moving to a place where walking becomes a practical possibility requires a mindset change. When I moved to Vermont for a stint, for the first time in my life I could walk into town to do my errands, and while at first the 15-minute “journey” seemed looong, I grew to really enjoy it and it became quite natural; soon if I needed to go somewhere, my first instinct was whether I could walk it.

Want to be prepared, come what may?

“I have read that the Scotch once had a custom of making a yearly pilgrimage or excursion around their boroughs or cities — ‘beating the bounds,’ they called it, following the boundaries that they might know what they had to defend. It is a custom that might profitably be revived. We should then know better the cities in which we live. We should be stronger, healthier, for such expeditions, and the better able and the more willing to defend our boundaries.” –John Finley, “Traveling Afoot,” 1917

“It is good for a man to keep himself in such condition that he can do ten miles on short notice. The deficiency in this respect, to which most people confess, is not a pleasant thing to contemplate.” –Alfred Barron, Footnotes, Or, Walking as a Fine Art, 1875

Even if those in developed countries rarely have a need to walk to get where they’re going, keeping up one’s walking endurance seems like a good “survival” skill to have. If walking once again became the only form of transportation available, say during the apocalypse, you’d be able to push your shopping cart of supplies across the country, ala the father in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Being able to walk long distances is also essential for being prepared for military service – where a principle form of transportation is the good old-fashioned march.

theodore roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt walking to work. September 20, 1901.

Near the end of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, he was out on one of his regular “rough cross-country walks” at DC’s Rock Creek Park with some young Army officers. He was chagrined to hear from them of the “condition of utter physical worthlessness into which certain of the elder ones [officers] had permitted themselves to lapse, and the very bad effect this would certainly have if ever the army were called into service.” When TR looked into the matter, he found that “otherwise good men proved as unable to walk as if they had been sedentary brokers.” He thus “issued directions that each officer should prove his ability to walk fifty miles, or ride one hundred, in three days.” Despite the fact that this was a test, Teddy argued, “which many a healthy middleaged woman would be able to meet,” he got a lot of pushback from older officers who worked desk jobs. TR settled the matter by performing the ride requirement himself in snow and sleet, demonstrating how easy it was.

According to a naval officer who wrote to Roosevelt, the walking test was highly effective in getting men ready for the rigors of service:

“The original test of 50 miles in three days did a very great deal of good. It decreased by thousands of dollars the money expended on street car fare, and by a much greater sum the amount expended over the bar. It eliminated a number of the wholly unfit; it taught officers to walk; it forced them to learn the care of their feet and that of their men; and it improved their general health and was rapidly forming a taste for physical exercise…

This test may have been a bit too strenuous for old hearts (of men who had never taken any exercise), but it was excellent as a matter of instruction and training of handling feet—and in an emergency (such as we soon may have in Mexico) sound hearts are not much good if the feet won’t stand.”

The officer lamented that the Navy had since changed the standard to ten miles once a month — a test which he found would not produce the same benefits as a walk that had to be carried out over at least two days. The reason? The first day of walking is easy; it’s the second day, when one’s muscles and feet are sore, that’s the real challenge. The prospect of that second day, the officer explained, is what:

“made ‘em sit up and take notice—made ‘em practice walking, made ‘em avoid street cars, buy proper shoes, show some curiosity about sox and the care of the feet in general…

The point is that whereas formerly officers had to practice walking a bit and give some attention to proper footgear, now they don’t have to, and the natural consequence is that they don’t do it.

There are plenty of officers who do not walk any more than is necessary to reach a street car that will carry them from their residences to their offices. Some who have motors do not do so much. They take no exercise. They take cocktails instead and are getting beefy and ‘ponchy,’ and something should be done to remedy this state of affairs.”

Spiritually dry?

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,’ to the Holy Land, till the children- exclaimed, ‘There goes a SainteTerrer,’ Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean….For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.” —Henry D. Thoreau, “Walking,” 1862

“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” –Thomas Merton, Mystics & Zen Masters, 1961

Pilgrimages – the purest of which are conducted on foot – are a religious rite shared by nearly all the world’s faiths. That believers of varying stripes might incorporate walking into their pursuit of spirituality is not surprising. A pilgrimage takes our shared metaphor of life as a journey, in which a lone sojourner must struggle with courage and hope through the wilderness, and turns it into a concrete, bodily experience; it converts the abstract into a tangible path, with real goals and obstacles and pain.

A pilgrimage can separate the traveler from the distractions of everyday life and act as a process of transformation and purification. The physical hardship of the journey can nullify the temptations of the flesh, while also showing one’s devotion to his faith; a pilgrim may hope to present this sacrifice to God as a penance for his sins, or an offering for the healing of another. And of course the pilgrim may experience additional insights or blessings once he reaches the holy site he has journeyed to.

“I personally would rather do the existentially essential things in life on foot. If you live in England and your girlfriend is in Sicily, and it is clear you want to marry her, then you should walk to Sicily to propose. For these things travel by car or aeroplane is not the right thing.” –Werner Herzog, Of Walking in Ice, 1978

Even an avowed atheist might believe that the effort put forth through walking could somehow be converted into a kind of supernatural force. Such is the case of filmmaker Werner Herzog, who does not have a belief in God, but does possess a sort of faith in walking. In 1974, when he was 32 years old, Herzog heard that film historian and critic Lotte H. Eisner was gravely ill. Herzog considered her a dear mentor, and vowed, “I am not going to fly, I refuse to take a plane, refuse to take a car, I refuse to do anything else, I will come on foot,” because, he explained, “I was totally absolutely convinced that while I was walking from Germany to Paris to see her, she would not have a chance to die.”

Herzog used his compass to determine the straightest course to his destination and then set out in the middle of winter to walk from Munich to Lotte’s home in France – a journey of nearly 515 miles. For three weeks he traveled as a hobo, eschewing hotels in favor of abandoned homes and barns, and spent his journey getting reacquainted with himself, as well as observing the people and places he encountered. After hundreds of miles of arduous tramping, he arrived in France to find that his faith in walking had not been in vain — Lotte was indeed still alive and well.

Want to really get to know a place?

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“Your pedestrian is always cheerful, alert, refreshed, with his heart in his hand and his hand free to all. He looks down upon nobody; he is on the common level. His pores are all open, his circulation is active, his digestion good. His heart is not cold, nor his faculties asleep. He is the only real traveller…He is not isolated, but one with things, with the farms and industries on either hand. The vital, universal currents play through him. He knows the ground is alive; he feels the pulses of the wind, and reads the mute language of things. His sympathies are all aroused; his senses are continually reporting messages to his mind. Wind, frost, ruin, heat, cold, are something to him. He is not merely a spectator of the panorama of nature, but a participator in it. He experiences the country he passes through—tastes it, feels it, absorbs it; the traveller in his fine carriage sees it merely. This gives the fresh charm to that class of books that may be called “Views Afoot,” and to the narratives of hunters, naturalists, exploring parties, etc. The walker does not need a large territory. When you get into a railway car you want a continent, the man in his carriage requires a township; but a walker like Thoreau finds as much and more along the shores of Walden pond…

I think if I could walk through a country I should not only see many things and have adventures that I would otherwise miss, but that I should come into relations with that country at first band, and with the men and women in it, in a way that would afford the deepest satisfaction…

Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage, till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it. Then the tie of association is born; then spring those invisible fibres and rootlets through which character comes to smack of the soil, and which makes a man kindred to the spot of earth he inhabits.” -John Burroughs, “The Exhilarations of the Road,” 1895

There is no better way of getting to know a place — whether your own backyard or an exotic locale — than by walking it. At such a slow pace, you are able to notice rich details that would otherwise pass you by. In your neighborhood you begin to observe the little details of others’ homes; in the woods you discover new plants and creatures; in the city you find small stores, restaurants, and alleyways you’d otherwise miss; when venturing abroad you give yourself opportunities to meet and converse with the locals. Whenever I visit a new place, I’m eager to set off on a walk from my lodgings to explore the sights, sounds, and smells of my new surroundings.

This was actually the method of exploration used predominantly by Meriwether Lewis as part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. While his comrades were often in the river on boats, he would stride along on foot, taking copious notes and drawing as many species of flora and fauna as he could. His contributions to science and exploration — in large part due to his walking — are considered immeasurable.

Getting acquainted with a new nation is quite an adventure, but as Burroughs notes, you don’t need a huge area to cover in order to keep yourself occupied on your walks for quite some time. Alfred Barron, author of 1875’s Footnotes, Or, Walking as a Fine Art, makes this calculation: “If you confine yourself to walks of twelve miles in every direction from your home, you have a field of observation comprising four hundred and fifty-two square miles.” There’s plenty to explore right outside your door!

Lacking inspiration?

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“I walk chiefly to visit natural objects, but I sometimes go on foot to visit myself. It often happens when I am on an outward-bound excursion, that I also discover a good deal of my own thought. He is a poor reporter, indeed, who does not note his thought as well as his sight. The profit of a walk depends on your waiting for the golden opportunity — on your getting an inspired hint before setting out…

These members [legs] when in motion, are so stimulating to thought and mind, they almost deserve to be called the reflective organs. As in the night an iron-shod horse stumbling along a stony road kicks out sparks, so let a man take to his legs and soon his brain will begin to grow luminous and sparkle.” –Alfred Barron, Foot Notes, Or, Walking as a Fine Art, 1875

“I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.” –Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Confessions, 1782

Throughout history, great minds in literature, philosophy, and science have found important insight and inspiration while out on a walk. Perhaps this is because walking – at least while out in nature (which is the kind of walking many of these thinkers favored) – has been shown by modern science to improve memory and attention. Or perhaps it’s because walking simply gets the blood pumping – a hard to quantify effect of invigoration.

William Wordsworth composed most of his poems while walking through meadows, moors, and mountains. He rambled in every kind of weather and all over Europe; a friend calculated that he had walked 180,000 miles in his life. Even in his 60s he was able to tour 20 miles a day.

Legend has it that Aristotle did his thinking and lecturing while walking, and students of his school of philosophy in Athens came to be known as Peripatetic philosophers — those “given to walking about.”

Nikola Tesla’s idea for his AC induction motor came to him while he was on a long walk through the city of Budapest. As he passed through a park and gazed at the sunset, “the idea came like a flash of lightning and in an instant the truth was revealed.”

For more examples of great thinkers whose minds were spurred on by their legs, we can do no better than turn to Bailey Millard, who penned this 1905 piece for The Critic, splendidly titled “The Relation of Legs to Literature”:

“Much bending over the folio does not make the better part of poetry or of prose. It inheres as much in the physiological condition that results from the swinging of the legs, which movement quickens heart action and stimulates the brain by supplying it with blood charged with the life-giving principle of the open air.

By taking a lover’s walk with the muse one may more readily woo words into new relations with thought than by sitting at a desk. And, leaving aside the matter of inspiration and looking at the subject from a lower plane, one finds that walking abroad often gives to the elusive, amorphous ideas, lurking darkly in the cerebral background, such clarity as is vainly sought within the compass of thought-impeding walls. Nearly all those poets whose lives are open to us have been good walkers—men and women who rambled about everywhere, adding to the scholar’s stimulus of study a truer poetical stimulus found along the woodland ways and out under the blue tenuity of the sky. In fact, I have long suspected that the flabby flexors and extensors of the locomotor media of our modern poets are largely responsible for the invertebrate verse of present production.

…Shelley, we are told, rambled everywhere. Goethe found his extensive walks about Weimar a source of great inspirational profit. Browning’s incomparable “Parcellus”‘ was composed for the most part during his rambles in the Dulwick woods. At any stage of his superb singing, wherever he happened to be, he would give his feet the freedom of the highway and the byway. He composed in the open air and trod out, as it were, many of his best lines. The tonic quality of his verse is, in a great measure, due to his habit of faring forth where he might “think the thoughts that lilies speak in white.”

…Dickens thought that it was necessary for him to walk as many hours as he wrote, and the excess of animal spirits which his work reveals throughout makes one feel that his system for maintaining that physical energy which begets mental alertness was an excellent one.

That artificial aid to locomotion, the bicycle, is in no way conducive to deep thought. Zola found that when he wanted to stop thinking the surest way was to ride forth a-wheel. The man with the “Here-I-come!” look in his face worn by so many wheelmen, is not likely to be doing much in the way of creative thought, clever and amiable though he may be as a road companion.

As for the philosophic brood, I find that most of them were men of sound legs, from Plato and Aristotle of the famous walking school down to Montaigne, Johnson, Carlyle, Ruskin and our own clearest minds, Emerson and Thoreau. Montaigne would have no fire in his great Circular study, which was “16 paces” (or shall we say about 40 feet?) in diameter. He warmed his mind as well as his body by walking. ‘My thoughts will sleep if I seat them,’ he declares. ‘My wit will not budge if my legs do not shake it up.’

…It is true that the nearer you approach the age of the trolley, the less depth is apparent in philosophy; which leads one to suspect that the Peripatetic School is the true school in any age…

As for Thoreau, his fine contribution to the world’s literature was as truly walked as it was written. So has been the work of John Burroughs, on the Atlantic side of the continent, and that of John Muir, the accredited spokesman for nature on the Pacific coast. If writings may be said to be manufactured by an author, then these latter were as truly pedufactured; and in offering our lexicographers this uncouth word I do so without a blush. For I plead guilty to a strong prejudice for the book that is walked first and written afterward. Other work may be more brilliant, and, in a sense, more clever, but that quality which one finds in the book which is walked is something never found in the book that makes no show of legs but all of head. The book that is walked, whether of prose or of verse, reveals ‘the buoyant child surviving in the man,’ of which Coleridge, himself a stout foot traveler, sings.”

Need a cheap form of exercise?

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. When body and mind are out of gear (and those twin parts of me live at such close quarters that the one always catches melancholy from the other) I know that I have only to call in my doctors and I shall be well again.” –George Macaulay Trevelyan, “Walking,” 1913

By now everyone knows the importance of regular exercise. What doesn’t get as much attention is that many of the health benefits of exercise are not predicated on sweating at the gym and using the latest and greatest equipment; all you need to do is hit the pavement. Walking is a low-impact activity that’s accessible to nearly everyone and has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and raise the good, reduce your blood pressure, strengthen muscles and bones, improve glucose control and insulin response, prevent and manage diabetes, and decrease your chances of becoming obese and getting heart disease.

Americans sometimes marvel at our European brethren who seem to enjoy good food and drink, turn up their noses at slaving away at the gym, and yet still remain trim. Part of their “secret” is that they walk three times more than we do.

Of course, as already mentioned many American cities aren’t very walkable and lack sidewalks. If you live in such a place, you can still squeeze in more short walk breaks at work and take a walk during lunch and in the mornings and evenings at home (getting a dog can help get you out the door). When I’m traveling, I usually have to skip my regular workout, and so I walk loops around the airport during layovers for a gentle bout of exercise. Helps pass the time, too.

Stressed, depressed, or anxious?

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“The best thing is to walk…Movement is the best cure for melancholy.” –Bruce Chatwin, Anatomy of Restlessness, 1996

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least— and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is—I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?” –Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” 1862

Going for a walk is a highly effective way to reduce your stress, depression, and anxiety. Like any form of exercise, walking releases endorphins which give pleasure to your brain and reduce your stress hormones, but unlike other forms of exercise, you can do it anywhere, anytime. A brisk 20- to 30-minute walk can have the same calming effect as a mild tranquilizer, and walking daily for a half-hour has been shown to quickly relieve major depression.

Walking has also been shown to clear the mind and refresh the senses. It’s a form of “meditation in action” which can rejuvenate your “brain fatigue.” Research has shown that reaching this meditative state through walking is made much easier when you take your stroll in nature, or even simply a small green space within a city. The mechanism at work here is a psychological phenomenon called “involuntary attention.” As opposed to the frenetic cityscape which grabs our attention in an exhausting way, natural surroundings engage the brain, but do it an effortless manner that still allows space for reflection. In this calm state, the knot of worries that have been tangling up from our day-to-day lives can more easily be unraveled and released.

Focusing on deeper meditation as you walk by centering your thoughts only on the present – concentrating on the movements of your body or counting your steps – can also help you tame your “monkey mind” which begets anxiety in its constant need to flit from one thing to another.

Finally, walking’s rejuvenating power may be located in the opportunity it provides for much needed solitude. Our two feet provide the opportunity to leave behind the crowd and the noise of the world at a moment’s notice, and regain our solitary independence.

Feeling like you’re about to flip out?

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“An Eskimo custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape; the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.” -Lucy Lippard, Overlay, 1983

When it comes to managing your anger, you may have heard it recommended to count to ten or to take a timeout and go somewhere for a cooling off period. The problem with such methods is that counting really doesn’t do the trick if you’re still right in the thick of (and staring at, and being stared at by) what set you off in the first place, and oftentimes when you leave to go somewhere else, your anger ends up building instead of dissipating; you start stewing in your room, or you talk to a friend who only eggs you on about how right you are, or you go get drunk which often leads not only to more anger but a whole other set of problems too.

In my experience, the best way to deal with a situation where you’re about to blow your top is to respectfully ask for a time out and then head right out the door to take a walk. As just discussed, walking can alleviate your anxiety and mellow you out. Plus, being alone with your thoughts can help you get perspective on what’s going down and how you really want to deal with it.

Baby won’t stop crying?

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When you have a newborn, nothing is more stressful than when they’re on a crying jag and you can’t soothe them. One “home remedy” I personally found highly effective was taking the baby out for a walk. It’s easy when you have one of those carriers that loads right into the stroller. Rolling along in the fresh air acted as a fast and all-natural baby pacifier. Plus, it’s hard for new dads to get exercise in, so this baby-mollification method kills two birds with one stone.

Age catching up with you?

oldman

“When Nero advertised for a new luxury, a walk in the woods should have been offered. It is the consolation of mortal men. I think no pursuit has more breath of immortality in it. It is one of the secrets for dodging old age.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Country Life,” 1858

Emerson was more right than he knew. Modern studies have shown that men who daily walk two miles or more have half the chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than men who walk a quarter-mile or less each day. Another study found that people over the age of 60 who walk 6-9 miles a week retain more gray matter and suffer less “brain shrinkage” and cognitive impairment than those who walk less. What’s really interesting is that not only does walking affect your mental faculties, but your mental faculties affect your walking. Researchers have found that as your cognitive abilities decline, your walking gait becomes slower and shakier, so looking at someone’s stride is actually one way to diagnosis those who have or are developing dementia. As the New York Times reports: “Thinking skills like memory, planning activities or processing information decline almost in parallel with the ability to walk fluidly…In other words, the more trouble people have walking, the more trouble they have thinking.”

So hey, those old ladies in windsuits at the mall are on to something after all.

Need to work through a problem with a friend or lover?

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“The roads and paths you have walked along in summer and winter weather, the fields and hills which you have looked upon in lightness and gladness of heart, where fresh thoughts have come into your mind, or some noble prospect has opened before you, and especially the quiet ways where you have walked in sweet converse with your friend, pausing under the trees, drinking at the spring—henceforth they are not the same; a new charm is added; those thoughts spring there perennial, your friend walks there forever.” –John Burroughs, “The Exhilarations of the Road,” 1895

If you and a friend or significant other are grappling with some problem or issue or worry, there may be no better way of working through it than going for a walk together. When you sit face-to-face with someone, the mood can feel confrontational – you may be thinking about not making the “wrong” facial expression instead of the issue at hand, and if you do make the wrong expression, it can set the other person off. When you’re sitting or standing side-by-side, on the other hand, people feel more comfortable and open and less defensive. They can look off into the distance to gather their thoughts, grimace, and bite their lip without self-consciousness.

When you’re side-by-side on a walk, you have this benefit, plus all those mentioned above (stress-reduction, meditation, inspiration) that can enhance your ability to work through a problem with someone. Plus, walking provides the physical sensation of moving forward, which can translate into a mental sense of forward progress as well. The Chinese characters for walking mean putting one foot in front of the other – and that’s really the best way to deal with any dilemma or challenge that besets us.

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.”
-Walt Whitman, “A Song of the Open Road”

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Timmins April 22, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Running works too! In fact, in some ways better. Need inspiration? Runner’s high is a great time to think and be creative.

Also check the philosopher Mark Rowlands for mind and marathon type discourse and how running and the history of philosophy are similar.

2 Schweeb April 22, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I can tell you from personal experience how well walking helps with stress and depression. Whenever I found myself about to kill myself as a kid/teen, I would grab a tennis ball and go for a walk, just bouncing that ball the whole time. I made it through. I had a couple close calls, but thanks to those walks, my dog, and my friends, I made it.

If you ever find yourself overloaded, just go for a walk. My preferred place is somewhere quiet out in nature, but everyone is different. It truly is amazing how well it works. To me, it was the difference between life and death.

3 Will Fowler April 22, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Couldn’t agree more rare thing to see people walking anymore. Especially in nature. People would rather look at other sweaty people on a treadmill or shops at a mall than walk around in nature and just unwind and connect with the universe.

4 Derik April 22, 2013 at 10:41 pm

When you’re walking through hell, keep walking.

5 Lance April 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm

My undergraduate degree is in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Utah. Admittedly I don’t remember much of the technical stuff that I learned because that’s not my field of occupation and it’s been a while. But I do remember the huge emphasis in the program that was put on walking. Just 30 minutes a day can change your life. And that 30 minutes is cumulative per day. Not necessarily all at once.

I love to walk with my wife. It’s a great time for us to think and plan and relax.

Great post!

6 mike April 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm

This was well worth the read with a bunch of awesome quotes as well. This kind of article is why I read AoM, and for the sandwich recipes to :).

7 John April 22, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Wonderful article, very well written and a pleasure to read and contemplate.
Thanks!

8 Kammes April 23, 2013 at 12:28 am

I’ve been living in Ethiopia for a couple years and occasionally I see nomadic camel herders. I’ve never seen walking on their level before. They look as if they own every step, as if they are o more solid ground than those around them. Honestly, there is a level of walking where you can actually own your gait.

9 Richard April 23, 2013 at 12:55 am

I’ve read that Steven Jobs had many key meetings while walking.

10 John Watkins April 23, 2013 at 1:09 am

Fantastic post! I have an ongoing project where I have been looking for a connection between modern spirituality and nature and this has helped a lot. I can tell you did a lot of research as well. Could you point me in the direction of some good sources?

11 lyn holland April 23, 2013 at 2:22 am

i walk and people look at me like im strange. some even ask me if i need a ride. i wish more people would walk, beacuse i rarely see a single other person out on my strolls

12 Ash April 23, 2013 at 2:52 am

Ah… man. These articles are so good, even walking becomes exciting! Yes, I think it’s time for a walk, myself.

13 Alexander Lee April 23, 2013 at 5:49 am

Walking is indeed a good way to work through a mental difficulty, and also to experience strong perceptual sensations. I wrote about that aspect after going for a walk one wintry midnight some time ago. I was standing alongside the highway, which rests upon a ridge in the center of the small town:

The frozen droplets swirled as a moving procession of hissing wraiths above the rooftops, glowing electric bluish-white from the unseen streetlights below. Individual forms could be seen gathering themselves up and throwing themselves back down upon the earth as they trekked eastward.

Showers of sharp, cold points were flung in waves upon my western cheek, and it became numb under the assault. My eyes were contracted into slits and my brow furrowed, and droplets clung to my eye and about my eyelashes. My vision thus obscured, I tactually sensed as much as saw the shifting forms of the wind. My head felt the dual sensations of competing fluids: my own feverishly warm blood and the searing liquid ice of the storm, fluids which contested various regions upon the surface of my skin as it was traversed by the sinuous form of the wind.

The headlights of a semi-truck trailer appeared arcing in from the distant west, and the machine shot past me with a deep roaring drone, leaving behind a ferocious undulating wake of droplet-carrying vortices. I bent my head eastward below hunched shoulders and upraised arm to protect my face from their fury, and my eyes followed the truck as it hurtled away, a meteor with glowing body and scintillating particulate tail.

14 Robyn April 23, 2013 at 6:41 am

I love the photographs for this article.
A few years ago I visited Paris with a German friend. She told me in order to make a place your own, you must walk it. After three days of walking everywhere in Paris, footsore and tired, I now own it!

15 Claude Warner April 23, 2013 at 6:43 am

How is it that so many things that are “trending” right now (organic food, artisan beer, baking, craft etc.) have always been there. Wise man in all his mass produced efficiency chose to call them antiquated, but is now rediscovering them as if they are something brand new. There is indeed nothing new under the sun, including a brisk walk on a crispy day to stimulate the senses. Walk on!

16 Andrew Aughenbaugh April 23, 2013 at 6:52 am

Great article and the research on the quotes really shows how long men have know about the importance of “taking a walk”. Since my move I have a five mile commute or a 3 mile walk. You got me thinking about walking to work. Thanks.

17 rick April 23, 2013 at 7:10 am

Hi and thanks for the well written article. I was just thinking the other day of a walk I had taken as a child over territory normally traversed in a car and the little things I had seen while walking I had previously. Thanks.

(Now maybe a follow up on good value walking shoes that are not sneakers.)

18 Rob April 23, 2013 at 7:31 am

Outstanding, and an inspirational kick in the pants. I was walking every morning until I got sick a few months back and the weather got very cold in the morning. Time to get started again.

19 Brian Yeager April 23, 2013 at 7:31 am

Having visited various countries in Africa, I have found walking to be the best way to engage with the people and learn about the land. I am looking forward to doing so again this summer in Central Asia, where walking long distances over and around mountains is the norm. I also agree with the points above which advocate walking for stress reduction and meditation. Whenever I am stuck on a mental problem or feeling overwhelmed, even a brief walk proves to be a rememdy.

20 Tom April 23, 2013 at 8:06 am

I’m blessed to live in Portland where we have the best transit system in the country. When I moved here 9 years ago I sold my car and have never looked back. Walking is the best form of transportation along with a good transit system, as long as you’re able.

21 vel April 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

great article. This is one of my absolute favorite websites.

I took up walking just over a year ago. I did it because I want to be able to go where i want when I want. It also helped with my anger and frustration from having an utterly incompetent boss; at the end of the day, I can at least say I’ve accomplished walking. I walk 6 miles a day, to and from work. And sadly, I seem to be the only one doing this in my entire city because I see no one else.

and really, in that “The Road” book, they used a shopping cart? So, evidently every wagon, bicycle, etc vanished from the earth? yeesh.

22 James A. Brown April 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

If you’re a stats junkie like myself, you can keep track of your walking mileage on websites like DailyMile.com How rewarding it is to see how many miles you walked (or ran or rode, etc.) this week, or this month. What percentage of the Earth have you circumnavigated over the last year? How many donuts were burned, how many TVs could be powered by your caloric output? Imagine finding yourself with some free time on December 31st and learning that you’ve walked 998 miles in the past year–can you think of what you could do that quiet afternoon that might tip you over some significant milestone?

23 Jack Henry April 23, 2013 at 8:51 am

This is one of the better AOM articles I have read in a while. I am able to note and appreciate the quality of the writing and the thoroughness of the research. This is an article I want to save and read again

24 Gregory April 23, 2013 at 9:05 am

My wife and I walk our dogs through the surrounding neighbourhoods and woods regularly as a way to stay connected to what’s important in an otherwise hectic modern life. Two years ago when I ruptured my Achilles tendon, being able to walk was a both simple and immense goal. Today, recovering from a motorcycle accident, I am again using walking as my goal and therapy. It is such a pure basic form of finding oneself physically, mentally and spiritually. Thanks for your post (and your time if you read this).

25 Andrew April 23, 2013 at 9:06 am

As a European, I can confirm, that some parts of this article sound really strange to non-Americans…

26 Michael April 23, 2013 at 10:06 am

If I may share a favorite walking quote of my own, “Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

27 Jason April 23, 2013 at 10:36 am

Some of the best dates my girlfriend and I have had have been taking long walks through the various parks and trails that surround our town. It is a great way to just be able to talk to each other and enjoy the silence of the outdoors together.
Walking also helps me work through problems I have for my economics homework (Econ Major.) The fresh air and the lack of distractions helps me focus.
I love walking and love this post; it was a great read!

28 Jack April 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

Sweet baby Teddy Roosevelt…that’s a long, and excellent, post!

29 Jonathon Stalls April 23, 2013 at 10:52 am

This is an incredible write-up. Thank you for the heart and time in putting this together. It puts beautiful picture and words to why I started Walk2Connect in July of last year…

30 Pike April 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

I loved this article, great job.

I agree with almost all the things others have said, as well as, obviously, the included quotes. I wrote the majority of my master’s thesis while wandering around or jogging, and it went much more smoothly for me than many of my peers who just sat staring at a computer screen. Similarly, getting out and about lifts my mood so much. Even though I don’t live in the best area (a still up and coming area of Baltimore) my walk to and from work each day (~ a mile) really makes my day so much better than a drive of equal distance would. Add to that the fact that my roommate started staying with his girlfriend who drives him everywhere and gained about 10 pounds and I’m a total convert to walking about. With modern conveniences like Zipcar I don’t plan to own a car while I live in a walkable city.

I have to agree with some people who said that running can help too. While you miss some of the fine details, it’s a great way to get out, improve your mood, talk with friends if you go together, and see a new area. I learned this city so quickly by running it’s streets, and I always try to run the first day I’m in a new city to get an idea of the layout.

31 Cresca April 23, 2013 at 11:08 am

Another great article and a very good tip for staying in shape.

Especially the “getting a dog” part.

I lost 5 kg after we got our dog and I had to walk him every day.

32 Adam April 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

When I lived in a remote part of Florida, I used to take long walks through the mostly empty neighborhood. I occasionally listened to an audio recording of “The Silmarillion” by Tolkien. There were special moments where the story would come alive, as I looked at the vast open skies and took in the towering trees around me. Those walks helped me cope with a difficult time in my life.

33 XDAYS April 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

Great article, I can’t tell you how many times I solved my problems by going on a nice stroll through the woods.

34 BenR April 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Great post! As soon as I finished reading this article, I stopped my work and was inspired to take a walk on my lunch break. Boy do I feel refreshed!

35 Franklin April 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Splendid post!
The problem with incorporating walking in one’s lifestyle is the perceived time “costs” associated with it. Why (for example) would a student walk to to class everyday when she/he would have to wake up thirty minutes earlier? In their mind, taking the bus or getting a ride from a friend costs much less time and effort.
That being said, she/he may not realize the tremendous long term benefits associated with walking.
In any case, I’ll be sure to walk home from school today.

36 Claude April 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm

At a particularly stressful job, I started walking on breaks. Its an amazing stress reducer.

37 Tyler April 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Unfortunately, I live in Flint, Michigan, which has one of the highest crime rates in the US. Because of that, walking anywhere beyond my college campus is sketchy at best and downright dangerous at worst. However, just walking around campus usually gets me in a better mood. Last term, a combination of school and personal stress left me in a depressive state, but I found that a late night stroll would ease that stress a bit and make things seem ok.

Also, that part about getting to know a city by walking is spot on. My favorite vacation was when I visited a friend in DC and left my car parked. Now, I feel like I know that city like the back of my hand.

38 sugapablo April 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm

One of the best things about my home is that it’s in a “walking neighborhood”. Just about everything is within walking distance. My kids’ schools, parks, grocery stores, restaurants, bars, shops, library, etc. What we sacrifice in terms of land (living in the city vs. the suburbs) we make up for in countless ways here.

After dinner, the wife and I often just take the kids out for a walk around the neighborhood. Just because. It’s just nice.

39 Jared April 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I love walking to clear my mind, and meditating on problems, goals and aspirations. I always feel refreshed.

Here is a link to a short film I mad about walking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPpLXfjE3og

40 Tyler April 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Such a powerful article. I have recently started walking with my dad everyday and at other times with a good friend. There is nothing that has brought me closer to them than simply walking, exploring our city and finding new adventure. Walking is amazing, solo walks are where I have my deepest thoughts/poems and feel most spiritually alive. Great article

41 Maia Duerr April 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I realize this is a “guy” website, but I think you’d also love this book on walking, by Rebecca Solnit — Wanderlust: A History of Walking http://www.amazon.com/Wanderlust-History-Walking-Rebecca-Solnit/dp/0140286012

42 Paul April 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm

One book I highly recommend is A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins was very dissillusioned with society in the 1970s and decided to cross the country on foot to discover America and it’s people. He even met his wife along the way!

43 Paul April 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Oops! I didn’t think to include an Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Walk-Across-America-Peter-Jenkins/dp/006095955X

44 Jeff The Bear April 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Another excellent article: informative and inspirational! Thanks so much for your efforts. I’ve found from experience that all the advice is correct and pertinent. Most of the references are available on Kindle or Nook for free or darn near. I started reading the Thoreau piece and it is a delight.

45 Alexander Connell April 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm

A very timely post.

I walk my dogs around our semi-rural neighborhood every day but despite almost every other household having at least one dog, I rarely see anyone else doing the same thing.

I’ve often wondered why, with the beautiful scenery we enjoy and the comparatively traffic-free, dirt roads people are so reluctant to leave their steel cages to experience it, even for a few minutes a day.

We’ve had a snowy, wet and cold spring but even so, I still manage to get my dogs out for at least one walk. Most of the time, it’s one of the highlights of my day. A chance to unwind, to meditate to switch off and just be.

Except today not one but TWO drivers felt the need to swerve out of their way to run through puddles and make sure I and my dogs were showered with icy, cold, mud.

I’ve never met these people, never done them any harm. My dogs have never done ANYBODY any harm. Yet for some reason just the sight of us walking aggrieved them so much, they felt we needed to be punished for it.

It’s not enough that it’s all they can do to drag their fat asses from the TV to the truck seat, they have to go out of their way to be spiteful to someone who does exercise?

Even after living in America for 20 years, I just don’t get the mentality.

46 Coast Ranger April 23, 2013 at 6:47 pm

This post made me realize how much a walker I have been during these past almost 60 years.

Some of the best were many-hour-long walks with a good friend from one side of San Francisco to the other with a long stop at the Basque Hotel in North Beach for the biggest dinner you can imagine for $4.00.

My longest, I think, was a Sierra Club “John Muir hike,” from the crest of the Coast Range, through Big Basin State Park, to the Pacific Ocean, about 40 miles–begun before dawn and ended with the help of flashlights.

Usually still walk about an hour total every day.

47 kirk April 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I loved reading long ago about the walks TR took in which he went straight no matter what. If there was a wall he climbed it, a lake he swam it.

I used to feel I could walk forever. Gout has certainly gotten in the way of it. I still prefer walking as my main exercise just can’t go as far as I like.

48 Brandon April 24, 2013 at 12:04 am

Pair walking with a labyrinth and you can really solve some problems…

49 Ross April 24, 2013 at 2:52 am

One of the finest articles I’ve ever read on any topic. What a cheerful, inspiriting rumination on walking.

After failing a Calculus II class I retook it and was near-failing again, until I prepped for the final by walking miles for days in a row, the textbook in my hands. Somehow that worked–I did well enough on the final to get a C in the course.

Once I thought out a graduate paper during a several mile walk in the middle of a large American city. I enjoy walking and did a lot of it, but it was almost magical how walking and plotting the skeleton of that paper went so well together.

Thank you to the McKays for writing this article. Although arthritis and other wear have made my limbs less than they used to be, I think there are many paths yet I’ll trod.

50 Richard April 24, 2013 at 7:54 am

A few more thoughts on walking, plus musical selections on the subject:

http://inkhornterm.blogspot.com/2007/05/7-means-of-movement-walking-edwin.html

51 David Wedge April 24, 2013 at 9:37 am

Its the best way I know of clearing your head when you need a break from working. I am also rather fond of a walk round a golf course as a player(no buggies!).

52 pops April 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

many years ago i added a component to my leadership skill – taking a walk outside while encouraging a subordinate to improve their performance. This had several positive effects; got us away from prying ears/eyes, i found that it relaxed us both, so we both could learn, if it was a member of the opposite sex, it allowed us to talk privately while still being seen publicly and it was less threatening that being called into the bosses office. finding a nice place to walk can be a challenge. One location was especially hard finding a good place to walk but i was able. I chuckled each time we went for a ‘walk’ and hearing: “the boss is taking Bill for a walk in the cemetery.” That put a whole new meaning to challenging a poor performer to improve.

53 BVTBrendan April 24, 2013 at 11:37 am

I’ve found that walking work meetings are extremely productive and insightful.

54 peter behringer April 24, 2013 at 4:47 pm

One of the best articles to come down the pike from The Art of Manliness IMHO..rescuing the walking tradition could contribute to more sustainable, liveable towns and cities in this age of mounting concern about global warming and related environmental issues…
i’m ex-suburbanite ratracer now a living overseas in major LatinAmerican city in a walkable pleasant business/residential neighborhood called the “The Manhattan of Caracas” …the freedom experienced getting around on foot for work or errands is liberating, not to mention a challenge to values that define “success” in some first world countries.

55 Gareth April 24, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Thanks for another great article. Of course, not only will our bodies and minds benefit from walking more but also so will the environment.

56 Justin Custer April 25, 2013 at 1:50 am

Thank you! This was a great article! I have it bookmarked in my browser for rereading in the future.

57 Goutam April 26, 2013 at 2:23 am

The article is enlightening and provides ample food for thought for the ultra-modern city dwellers, who have just lost hold on this basic human activity.
And Johnnie Walker says, “Keep walking.”

58 Nicholas Leung April 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

Walking is one of those simple things we were definitely geared for.

Nick

59 Jon April 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

Werner Herzog has written a terrific journal chronicling his walk from Munich to Paris.
When he heard that his friend Lotte Eisner was sick, nearing death, Herzog packed a small duffel bag and began walking, declaring that as long as he walked, and if he arrived in Paris on foot, Eisner would survive.

He made it (writing beautifully the whole way) in about 70 days. And sure enough, Eisner overcame her illness. Brilliant book, can be read in 45mins – definitely recommended.

60 Matt B April 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I always go for a walk if I’m feeling brain-drain or if I feel really stressed. It’s a good way to clear the cobwebs, and it’s also good exercise. If I’m having a really bad day, then I go for a hike.

61 George April 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Great article.
I commute everyday about 40 miles, but the best part is walking from station to campus.
I happen to end in a beautiful terminal station and have 1km/0.6 miles, about 15 mins each way, however I can take a diversion through a park, which I tend to do more as the weather improves. Also, “the brisk morning walk” is very good after an hour in a train, with a rather stressing last leg (train full).

I failed a Math course and am due to do the recovery exam, war very stressed till this tuesday… I did a get together with college mates, in the city (was a holiday) and walked all day long. Since that day I feel much much better.

A few months ago there was a rainy week and I had to take the metro/underground (just for a single stop)… it was rather depressing.

I like to walk slowly, watching every detail of the environment. As I said, I arrive to a beautiful station and I love sticking around a while when I can, slowly walking out and taking diversions, stopping and observing.
My friends of college just rush out of the station and go to the campus… taking some time and slowing down makes the “routine” more enjoyable.

I am a really curious person and love to observate the environment, each single day is different even if the routine is similar.

62 Charlie Dearmore April 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm

For an in-depth case study and real-world example of what is discussed in this excellent article, check out “Places in Between” by Rory Stewart, the travelogue of a British ex-Army officer who walked across Afghanistan in 2001, just after the American invasion. It’s a beautiful book, and one that fully bears out the thesis of this article.

63 Daniel April 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Living in Oslo, I have the woods a mere 30 minutes away from home by foot. It’s even less if I take the tramway or the metro. Yet, taking a stroll through the forest is not something I do nearly often enough. When I was a child, my grandparents used to take me on a sunday trip every week. Cross-country in the winter time, and by foot for most of the year.

This article was a cruel reminder that I have to take those weekly trips by foot more often than I’m doing now. Especially during stressful times like the final exams. There really isn’t anything more serene than to just walk around in the nature by yourself.

64 Nihil Obstinate April 28, 2013 at 9:20 am

Beyond a great article about the benefits of being a rambling man, I must applaud your use of Latin.

65 Suzan April 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm

One of the all time great walking books was written by Patrick Leigh Fermor who at age 17 in 1933 decided to walk from London to Constantinople. He wrote 2 books about it when he was in his 60′s. The first, A Gift of Time and the 2nd Between the Woods and the Water. He died before completing the final book but these are classic walking tour/coming of age books.

66 Ian April 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Great article! Love the mix of inspiring quotes and information. I love walking. Before I had a bike I would like 10 miles a day or more to work.

67 Brian April 30, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I like to walk at night when I can have the city all to myself.

68 Mark May 1, 2013 at 1:32 am

I couldn’t agree more! I live in Colorado and the concept of hiking around the mountains is extremely appreciated here. I have started to partake in lots of different kinds of walks though, depending on my situation. If I’m stressed or lacking motivation a vigorous walk or run helps. If I am melancholic or need to think, I might take a longer, slower stroll, sometimes with my pipe. These have been very therapeutic and inspirational for me and I highly suggest them!

69 John McConnaughy May 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Earlier this year I was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, probably caused by a viral infection. I survived largely because I was in good shape (as I’ve been told by my Doctors). If I was in good shape, it’s because I like to walk — walking the dog, backpacking, doing errands on foot, whatever. I haven’t been to a gym in years. It was a lifesaver for me!

70 Michael May 7, 2013 at 11:46 am

Last August we moved to a new house in a small town. Now I get to walk to the bank, the post office and the hardware. It’s one of the things I like most about our new house. I even get to take our one year old daughter with me to the Post Office because it’s only two blocks. It’s so much fun to get home pick her up and head out for a few minutes with her before I settle in for the evening.

71 Rupert May 15, 2013 at 3:02 am

Best article I have read anywhere in a long time. It made me think that I should Write President Obama and suggest he conduct some of his meetings with foreign dignitaries while walking.

72 Frank May 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Great collection of “solvitur ambulando” s.
Couldn’t agree more with site and comments except for dogs. They spoil walks.

73 Chad May 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

What a FANTASTIC article and marvelous assembly of quotes! If you’re interested in a few more (short) paeans to bipedal rhythmicity, check out the chapter on walking in Lynda Lynn Haupt’s book, Crow Planet, or the 5-minute long TED talk by Nilofer Merchant on the walking meeting. Thanks!

74 Marc Andresen June 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

Beautiful, rich article that keeps one coming back again and again. Like a favorite hike. Thanks!

75 Steven Hawkins July 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Excellent article as always.

76 Brendan September 26, 2013 at 1:50 am

When I was unemployed and having a hard time, taking long walks with my dog helped so much and always left me in a better state.

77 Jacob September 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Walking gets a negative rep with many exercisers as being too easy. While you might not be huffing and heaving by the end of it, I can claim to the benefits. Just by walking 30 minutes per day during my lunch break, my blood pressure and heart rate have dropped significantly. Remember, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean there is not a benefit to doing it.

78 AZDuffman October 17, 2013 at 9:00 am

I walk about 1.5 to 2 miles everyday and love doing it. I hate most exercise, but walking is relaxing. And you are on to something when you say how many people will do anything to avoid walking. I get together with some old buddies 1-2 times per year and it is amazing how they react to having to walk a few blocks. They made me wait for a hotel shuttle to avoid a 15 min walk. You would think they was on the Bataan Death March.

Used to walk on breaks at my old employer. Others went outside to smoke, I went for a walk. Laps around the building get boring but you have to make do with what you have. My co-workers just wondered about me, I didn’t care.

79 Tom L November 14, 2013 at 2:44 am

This may surprise some but I’ve never driven a day in my life. I’m nearly 31. I’ve never taken the bus to work, home or to a friends either. I love to walk for all of the aforementioned in this article. I’ve been able to work through problems, contemplate purpose, spirituality and the personal meanings of major parts of my life. Walking has become more than just a means to get from point A to point B; it’s the time and mental space of my day for complete freedom. It makes sense seeing as how we originated as nomadic people. I can gain my bearings in an unfamiliar city much quicker on foot than in or on any sort of vehicle. In short, walking in the best.

80 Gray November 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I love this article and come back to it periodically. My wife and I started walking to help our dog burn off excess energy. It has helped our marriage out tremendously by giving us 30 minutes a day together away from distractions of work, TV, the internet, and life. In the process, we have lost over 100 pounds combined and are able to do things we used to just talk about, like alpine skiing. Walking is the best thing we have done for our marriage in the 10 years since our wedding.

81 dna December 25, 2013 at 8:57 pm

After perusing this website for the last few years, I somehow managed to miss this one completely before it showed up on the best of 2013 list. What a fantastic read, really. I would just like to share the walk that changed my life on so many different levels.

I was 25 and my longterm girlfriend had just left me. Having been raised on a farm, and having spent a few summers planting trees as a student job, I knew the only thing to help me heal would be a terribly long walk. It was also fine time for me to establish an adult, man to man, relationship with my father. After alot of convincing he agreed to take time off work and embark on a two month long pilgrimage with me. We started the Way of Saint James in Arles, southern France, and walked all the way to Santiago de Compostela, roughly 1600kms. I can’t think of a better healing and rite of passage into manhood than that.

Solvitur Ambulando indeed!

82 Frank January 2, 2014 at 11:52 am

Even Toronto under Rob Model T Ford is beginning to wake up to the joy and necessity of walking.
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/01/chief-city-planner-aims-to-make-toronto-more-pedestrian-friendly/

83 Melissa January 31, 2014 at 11:24 am

Lovely post! I especially like the bit on walking – or not walking – in the city by John Finley.

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