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National Walking Day: Will You Step Out?

April 4 is National Walking Day, an invention of the American Heart Association intended to prod chair-bound Americans into discovering the rewards of bipedalism.

Hoofing itTrue: Walking strengthens the body and benefits the heart. Beyond that basic tenet of wellness logic, here are 2 other reasons to consider joining a walking event being staged on Wednesday in communities across the country (or potentially organize one), or to voluntarily hoof it on foot to work on Friday, designated as National Walk to Work Day:

1) Walking is simple fun. For evidence I will simply direct you to a recent REI Blog post that describes a wingnut idea I concocted while visiting Southern California for 3 weeks: Don't rent a car.

Though I sometimes bummed rides from friends and rode buses, I primarily turned the trip into an extemporaneous walking adventure, hiking 8 or 10 or 12 miles just to see new sights or visit friends.

I eventually wound up walking 22 miles one way and crossing 2 urban mountain ranges to walk to Hollywood just to catch a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, my favorite television program, hosted by the most noteworthy Scot to step on America's shores since John Muir. Urban adventure, I'm convinced, is a barely discovered fun zone that merits further investigation.

2) Walking exercises the mind as well as the body. I personally find walking to be a grand indulgence, easily one of the most mind-expanding, brain-nourishing, spirit-elevating activities my modestly equipped cranium experiences. 

This view is reinforced in a splendid 2000 book by the keen social observer Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Here are a few deep-thought excerpts that set my noggin a-nodding in agreement:

Walking"Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts."

"The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it."

"Walking can also be imagined as a visual activity, every walk a tour leisurely enough to both see and to think over the sight, to assimilate the new into the known. Perhaps this is where walking's peculiar utility for thinkers comes from. The surprises, liberations, and clarifications of travel can sometimes be garnered by going around the block as well as going around the world, and walking travels both near and far."

So on April 4—which is International Carrot Day as well as National Walking Day; such a health-infused date—consider seeing your customary world in a new way by meandering through it on foot.

Ceremonial awareness days aside, seek out opportunities to substitute a motorized excursion with a walk. Observe unusual trees that elude your attention when you speed by them in a car. Notice the birds, the shade patterns of fixed objects, and fellow pedestrians, from the rare postal carrier who still makes deliveries on foot to likeminded souls who find time to see the world at a slower pace and on a more intimate, socialized plane. An inviting world awaits.

Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before leading wherever I choose.
       —Walt Whitman (Song of the Open Road)

Posted on at 4:57 PM

Tagged: National Walking Day, Rebecca Solnit, walking and wanderlust

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