Even amidst the horrors of the lockdown, we did espy errant pedestrians, amblers and quiet often exercising walkers, going about their businesses, determined to keep their passion and routines, despite the adversity. Those dark days are behind us now thankfully. We are back to our normal stride. I miss my regular walks during those times and as I watched with envious pangs the regulars, I reflect back on why the simply joy of a brisk walk, set each day to the hands of the clock, a regular feature of my daily routine, gives me such immense pleasure.
People are passionate about walking, and our collective right to go for walks. We have not let even the unfortunate aspect of an urban design break our stride. Whether you have the great outdoors for your backyard or the horrors of broken-down roads amidst traffic lights and pollution, walkers walk… ambling uninterrupted or waiting every turn for permission to cross the streets taken in urban stride.
The habit of walking has now become part of our culture, proven beyond doubt to be the superpower which harnesses modern man’s clean bill of health. That walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier, there is no doubt. Our brains are what scientists favour calling ‘motor-centric entities’, that have evolved to support movement. Without it, our brains cease functioning well. Studies have shown the co-relation between movement and personality traits as well. People who moved the least showed malignant personality changes while regular walkers develop openness, extraversion and agreeableness. There is substantial evidence to show that walkers have lower rates of depression too.
When you commit to a walking program for yourself, the benefits are tremendous. Walking by yourself is a therapeutic endeavour; with each stride you find yourself walking into mindfulness. It’s a form of meditation that can lead you to strange places of discovery, exploration and clarity. Who doesn’t feel better after a bracing walk that blows the cobwebs away from under your feet, while the dust settles on your shoes? A morning walk can truly prove transformative from sleepy to smiley, while a strenuous hike may leave you exhausted but uplifted… and a stroll, oh well, a stroll… it leaves you with this strange calm and sense of peace. What’s not to love about all that?
There’s nothing like the combination of fresh, crisp morning and physical activity to get you charged up and ready to face the day. As you trail through your paths and trails roads and back alleys, with your body and mind in perfect symmetry with the rhythmic treadmill of the universe, the activity triggers the body’s relaxation process. Whether the world is flooded in sunshine from a glorious morning burst or smoothed down in mellow floodlit lamps casting long shadows, the mind is cleaned and cleared from the day’s baggage. Like a brief respite from all that daytime commotion, dissipating all that flurry of activity in and around you, even as your stride on, crushing the world’s worries under the soles of your feet with every step.
As you walk, you perceive perhaps bold landscapes stretching ahead with myriad possibilities or structures of cement and mortar in upward mobility, as the cityscape envelops you on the ground. Walking provides highly textured mental landscapes to a creative mind, and in these moments it’s not just your feet taking those steps but your imagination tripping and skipping along. Greek philosophers and many other writers have long discovered a connection between walking, thinking and writing. Methinks, “one cannot sit down to write, unless one has walked enough to live!”
As most forms of exercise, walking builds character and stamina and as you build them step by step you soon learn to crave that mixed sensation of peacefulness and exhilaration that comes with propelling yourself further and further. Soon you learn to enjoy that mixed tingle of sweat and exercise on your skin and your best thoughts and inspirations exploding while you walk.
Nietzche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Solitary walks are the stomping grounds of great ideas. Problems are solved, cares are washed off, riddles are answered and ideas take root. If you’ve been an avid reader, it’s clear on the journeys of characters in novels that there has always been a persistent link between the mind and the feet. So many writers have transformed the quicksilver of consciousness into ink and paper.
From an evolution stand-point, walking makes us the bipedal mammals that we are. And so we have developed a body posture and gait specifically adapted for walking. We all know the physical benefits of walking whether it shows improvements in your blood pressure, your resting heart rate, reduces body-fat (love this one) and body weight, reduces cholesterol, improves depression while the physical benefits are notable. The mental boost that can be gleaned from adding a walk to your daily routine may be immeasurable. Walking creates an unadulterated loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state. When we stroll, our feet naturally vacillate with our moods and the cadences of our inner space. Walk slow or walk fast, pick up the pace or amble along, but walk you must, into mindfulness!