Walking up the hill to good health

Published May 23, 2014
One day in the spring of 10th grade I had had enough. I skipped the bus, walked to school instead, and never again rode to or from school.
I quit riding because I craved quiet, especially in the morning when my mind was awaking slowly, and I reached the point where I could no longer face the daily prolonged cacophony. But I had another important reason for spurning the big yellow hubbub-bus: I loved to walk. I found great satisfaction in the meditative solitude of walks. When our family went camping I took many long walks in the woods, and often I was off on a trail almost before the wheels of the car came to a rest.
I attribute my positive mental outlook in my high school years partly to my avid walking. I arrived at school, 1 1/4 miles and 45 minutes from home, alert and refreshed, and although I felt self-conscious at times when the bus passed me while I trudged through the cold carrying my violin I never once considered returning to bus riding.
Dr. Andrew Weil in “Spontaneous Healing” confirms my belief about walking and my mental outlook: “Human beings are meant to walk. We are bipedal, upright organisms with bodies designed for locomotion. Walking is a complex behavior that requires functional integration of a great deal of sensory and motor experience; it exercises our brains as well as our musculoskeletal systems. …
“When you walk, the movement of your limbs is cross-patterned; the right leg and the left arm move forward at the same time, then the left leg and the right arm. This type of movement generates electrical activity in the brain that has a harmonizing influence on the whole central nervous system — a special benefit of walking that you do not necessarily get from other kinds of exercise.”
I found special reassurance in the following statement by Weil because I had a cancerous kidney removed in 2010: “Many of the healthiest people I have met are dedicated walkers. Shin Terayama, the man who recovered completely from metastatic kidney cancer, takes a daily walk before breakfast whenever he can, always maintaining a brisk pace and always including uphill walking if possible.”
Although I depend on my car as much as the next person, I am never quite relaxed when driving, and I always feel relieved when I arrive at my destination. In high school, when most guys couldn’t wait to get their license and get out and drive, I delayed taking driver’s ed and for a time did not want to learn to drive after seeing a couple close calls in friends’ cars. I thus firmly agree with this statement from Dr. Weil: “Of all the technological inventions that have changed our patterns of activity for the worse, the automobile gets the prize.” Inspired by Dr. Weil’s remarks on walking, I committed myself this week to longer walks.
A related change was a commitment to get to bed and arise earlier so I have time for walks — my midday start time at The Review makes it tempting for me to stay up too late in the evening, but I’ve found I accomplish little because I’m too tired for anything besides reading or watching shows — and on Tuesday I arose at a reasonable time and walked for a half hour in our allotment. On Wednesday I walked for 37 minutes, including a long, gradual hill in that day’s route. Ten hours later, as I write this, the feeling of well-being is still with me, my muscles feel good, and I’m moving with more coordination and vigor.
Walking is an old habit that will now be a renewed habit, and I’ll close with another quote from Dr. Weil: “In my opinion, walking is the most healthful form of physical activity, the one that has the greatest capacity to keep the healing system in good working order and increase the likelihood of spontaneous healing in case of illness.”

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