Under my byline

To stand tall, walk

Posted in Books, Fitness, Health by Rrishi on 27 May 2007

The PM tells us to live simpler and waste less, so step out of your car and walk

Samuel Pepys, the 17th-century British Navy bureaucrat and diarist, seems to have done a great deal of walking. Judging from his diary, he walked often in company. Even so, unless the walk was part of the evening social promenade, it was simply a way to get from one place to another. For instance, Pepys never says “I walked a brisk two miles and felt proud of myself,” as today we might.

Instead he says: “After dinner he and I to Deptford, walking all the way, where we met Sir W Petty and I took him back, and I got him to go with me to his vessel and discourse it over to me, which he did very well, and then walked back together to the waterside at Redriffe, with good discourse all the way.”

We who have made walking into a leisure activity and exercise regime probably have less fun at it than he did. Morning and evening, parks and pavements are full of earnest walkers in loose clothes, clutching weights or cellphones. They are quite right: walking regularly is one of the easiest ways to stay fit. It is good for posture, for muscle firmness and tone, maintaining bone strength, reducing weight and staving off heart disease. It improves circulation and delivery of oxygen to tissues and cells, strengthens the heart muscles, raises good cholesterol, and decreases blood pressure. Walk, and you are likely to live better, longer.

But can walking make you happier and wiser? Studies link walking to greater mental alertness, confidence, self-esteem and self-image.

Can it also improve your intelligence, imagination and adaptability? For that, please step into any crowd. Rush hour near Mumbai VT, Delhi’s Paharganj in the evening, Gariahat Road in Kolkata. Try out different routes to your local market. Climb out of an auto or bus a half-km before your destination.

This is a full physical and mental workout. You will soon find yourself noticeably more agile and manoeuvrable, looking down, ahead, into the distance, sideways, up and down in search of threats and opportunities. Best of all, what you see will give you things to think and talk about. Perhaps you will discover a business opportunity.

Then, if you’re lucky, you can end your day like Samuel Pepys: “So walked back again, and by and by our supper being ready, a good leg of mutton boiled, we supped and to bed,… wherein we slept most excellently all night.”


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