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Solvitur Ambulando: It Is Solved By Walking

January 17, 2014

My friends, today, I come to you with a message that will change your lives. A thing that can make a difference. Go now and… walk!

Anti-climatic? I mean, why walk somewhere when you can drive there or catch public transport? You’re not going to get there as quickly right?

This is a classic of focusing on a narrow view of ends, forgetting that means are ends. It’s a case of saying ‘Okay, I want to go A to B, because at B I can do C, and C is a good thing’ and then trying to go from A to B at top speed to maximise time doing C, or just getting C out of the way so you can do something else. But, your journey from A to B also contributes to your overall state. So you’ve got to weigh up whether a more pleasurable, yet slower A to B journey is worth a faster, less enjoyable one. So, what’s the solution?

Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.

Walking/ – as that wonderful article shows, is a beautiful activity. I urge you to read it, over time – it is a little long. But the tip of iceberg of benefits:

  1. It improves memory and retention[1]
  2. Walking reduces stress, depression and anxiety [2]
  3. Half an hour walking a day quickly gets rid of major depression[3]
  4. Assists with meditation [4, 5]
  5. Walking a few kilometres a day in old age reduces the chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s by around 50% comparison to minimal walking [6]

Those are some the scientifically proven benefits. But I think there’s a lot more to add to that list. When you walk I find you take things in more because of your slower pace – you explore the nooks and crannies, occasionally finding gems. It’s the difference between looking at a long range photograph of a place, taken from the air, and actually walking that road to a viewpoint where you could take that photograph. The ‘benefits’ of that walk may be hard to pinpoint and define, and may seem vague and irrational even. Now, that link discusses most of the benefits of walking and has a wonderful series of anecdotes, but I’d like to share a few instances where walking has done wonderful things for me, and end with a discussion on walking.

A few weeks back, I was at a bus stop – after having had a lovely day with friends – and I had about 50 minutes till the next bus (I did forget to check another bus route’s set of times though) , and it was a hot day, 30 degrees Celsius or so. Normally I’d just read under the shade and wait the time out. One of the virtues of public transport over driving is that you can read on public transport. Do that every day for nearly an hour and you’re getting through a lot of good books each year. But I decided not to stay in the shade – call it a spur of the moment thing – and began to walk, knowing that I’d probably take 50 minutes to walk home, meaning I’d get home a bit earlier than the bus, but having to weigh it against the book. Seemingly a bad trade off, right? 20 minutes extra vs. 50 minutes reading? Was I out of my mind?

No, I wasn’t ready to go to the asylum, and I was right. A few minutes into my walk I saw a friend of mine catching from behind on his bike. A surreal experience followed where, so I could talk with him instead of him breezing past, I was running up a steep hill at full speed, and he just coasting on the bike. We didn’t talk for very long, but it’s one of the enduring memories of the break I’ve had recently. You can’t quantify the benefits of that walk.

A few weeks later, I decided to take myself up on my goal to take evenings strolls around parts of my neighbourhood. I’ve done it twice now, and it’s a beautiful thing. In the cool evening air, you walk around in relative silence, relaxing and taking in the scenery. And when you pass houses it’s always nice to look at the lights that are on and see what atmosphere they evoke. Some lights, curiously, convey an image of warmth and hearth. Very nice. And twice – again, not a rationally considered decision – I decided to walk on an oval near my place. Both times I’ve sprinted for a bit on oval. Whenever I go out in the evening – be it putting garbage bins or walking – I like to do a short sprint. The rush of cool air is brilliant, but not being able to judge your progress so well is a beautiful. It’s hard to describe until you do it, but running 50 metres on a flat oval with nearly nothing to mark your progress just lets you soak in the beauty of the sprinting. Now, sprinting isn’t walking, but I think the analogy fits, and it’s important to break up an activity or habit with new things. Walking with sprinting, laziness with walking.

Walking sometimes relieves stress as well. I’d organised an event very well. People, 24 hours before we were to meet, had confirmed the venue. I thought everything was going well. I wake up the morning of the thing, inadvertently check Facebook for updates… and somebody blazing changed the location of the event. What!? You don’t change the location of an event literally 12 hours before meeting, especially when you’re asleep for 8 of those hours! You can imagine I was a bit enraged. Got off the train, happy with reading a good book, yet realising I now had a 20 minute walk in front of me. I was pretty irritated.

But the walk was very nice and calmed me down. In fact, I even got lost due to skipping a step (both had the same street name in my memory) and I wandered about for quite a while. I was a few minutes late, but I actually saw those I was meeting on the way. That walk quelled a black wrath!

I’m not saying that cars and public transport are useless. There’s a reason we developed them! They’re very useful; I don’t walk to and from school – I don’t have 5 hours a day for that. But let us not forget the joys of walking. I know I enjoy walking from the train station to my school each day and there’s a reason the evening stroll is often considered romantic, and that the English gentleman strolls around in daytime. The images exist for a reason. If they gave our ancestors pleasure, so can they give us pleasure. And remember, walking is a democratic activity – it is free and we can all participate in it.

A fellow I know actually asked me a strange question recently about planning an afternoon with a lady he knows well. I quickly convinced him that he should, but then the question was … what to do? Now, there were particularities, details etc. Yet we both agreed that an old school touch is often very welcome. I most strongly insisted to him to take a walk. Now, he didn’t like the idea of strolling through gardens. And nor should you walk where you detest to do so. But he thought the idea was very good. He wanted to walk by a lake. Walking wasn’t to be the entire trip, but it was certainly part of it.

Make walking part of your lives. Remember, solvitur ambulando. It is solved by walking.

———————–

1 – http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/6892

2 –http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1593511

3- http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/35/2/114.abstract

4 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17055544

5 – http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2013/03/05/bjsports-2012-091877.abstract?sid=56b97a4c-0e75-46d0-a6ba-41c7f41a089c

6 – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040922071021.htm

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5 Comments
  1. graceeeeeey permalink

    Harlan, I think you inspired me to go on a walk now.
    Hope your holidays are great!
    Grace 🙂

  2. Many thanks Grace. I hope I have inspired you to take a walk, forit is indeed something we easily forget.

    And of course, many thanks for being the first person to leave a comment on my blog!

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