By Bob Ramsey
All health and fitness experts agree that exercise is the secret to longevity and vital aging, and most concur the greatest single form of exercise is simply walking—especially for seniors.
Walking is an all-purpose activity. There are no fees, no specialized facilities (e.g., courts, courses, gyms, etc.) and no special equipment or clothing (except for comfortable shoes). You can walk almost any time, anywhere.
Walking is affordable and accessible to all ages and abilities (e.g., 44% of centurions report they walk regularly). It can be competitive. Or not. You can walk indoors or outdoors. Fast or slowly. It can be a group experience or a solitary activity,
Obviously, walking is much more than exercise. It can still be a basic form of transportation. I’m reminded of the little woman on the old TV series, “Northern Exposure,” who quit her driving lessons because “I miss walking.” Sometimes, walking is better than driving.
I should know; I once tried doing both—simultaneously. For some obscure reason that only a teenager could fathom, I ended up bringing home two cars late one night—all by myself.
It was too far to drive one car home and then walk all the way back to get the second vehicle. So I did what any resourceful adolescent would do. I drove one car a few blocks; then walked back to get the other vehicle and drove it ahead a few blocks. This scheme worked OK, until the police stopped me. For some reason they were suspicious and questioned my story. They ended up following me home, leaving one car behind. I should have stuck to walking.
Walking is also a good way to bond with your pet or to meet new people, like my friend who recently undertook a 500 mile religious pilgrimage in Spain. He eventually wound up walking alongside a stranger. As they continued their trek, my friend learned that this “stranger in a foreign land” actually lived in Minnesota, a few miles from his own house. It took walking a remote route 5,000 miles from home to bring them together.
Another good reason for waking is simply to explore your surroundings. Remember the family who walked every street in St. Louis Park a few years ago?
Walking also promotes conversation when you walk with someone else and promotes reflection when you walk along. Nietzsche said it best, “Only those thoughts that come from walking have any value.”
If you don’t want to talk or think, walking is also a perfect way to commune with nature. Thoreau was on to something.
The point is that walking works on several levels. That’s why many communities are constantly constructing new trails and walking paths.
Whatever form of walking you choose is OK. They’re all good. Any motion beats inertia. Just decide and stride. Decide how and where you want to walk and start. Don’t waffle trying to make up your mind. Remember Burindan’s Ass who starved to death, because it couldn’t choose between two bales of hay.
There are many reasons to take up walking. Perhaps, the best is simply because it’s fun. That’s why we all have a special feeling about walking. As Max Beerbohm explained, “People seem to think there is something noble and virtuous in the desire to go for a walk.”
Walking isn’t seasonal; but summer is especially for walking—particularly for older folks. Don’t miss the opportunity. Go for a walk. Better health and a better life are just steps away.
Bob Ramsey is a lifelong educator, freelance writer and advocate for Vital Aging. He can be contacted at 952-922-9558 or by email at [email protected]