from time to time i post articles i think are worth reading and passing along.
here's one. enjoy. peace.
Recently I learned of a study comparing the average walking speed of people from different countries. The people with the fastest pace are in Japan. The U.S. is in the top five, which also includes other industrialized nations. At the bottom of the list—the slowest pace—are people from Malawi.
Now that I am semi-retired and have more leisure time, I have decided to do more errands by foot rather than by car. I have always done a lot of hiking and walking recreationally, but this is something different. When I need a haircut or have to go the post office, I go out my front door and hit the pavement. There’s a lot within a mile and a half of my home, and I truly enjoy walking the three-mile round-trip. Because of this behavioral change, there is quite a difference in how I feel, and I’ve noticed that my pace is probably getting closer to the folks in Malawi than to those in Japan.
Walking provides an opportunity to see things that I never would have observed when I traveled by car. It is interesting to see the variety of plant life along the path, and how houses have such interesting designs. There are scores of things I see now that before were just a blur as I hurried in my auto to get to the next place. It’s also far more civil when one walks. We fellow walkers generally greet each pleasantly, as opposed to the tension and disregard that typifies interactions between fellow drivers competing for position. Sometimes even a conversation develops with others, or if you see someone you know, there’s an opportunity to get reacquainted. I expect all this has reduced my blood pressure, pulse rate, and irritability quotient, as it feels to me like the rat race is occurring on some track that I am not on.
On the negative side, there’s the smell of gas fumes and the sight of litter that one would not be aware of if not walking. But the worst observation is how hurried and harried people seem to be while driving. No one appears to have enough time to get where they are going as they speed along, using up fossil fuel, not getting any exercise, and feeling tense on the roadway. Believe me, I know from where I speak, as that was surely a picture of me for a very long time, and occasionally still is.
I suppose in an ideal world we would all live about a 10-minute walk to our jobs and we would have enough discretionary time to feel unhurried. It’s difficult in a metropolitan area to slow down our pace, observe the world that surrounds us, and interact pleasantly with others. There are times that nothing but our automobiles will do, but there are times when we probably do not need a car, yet are just in the bad habit of using one.
Similar to starting a diet, developing new, healthier habits can take time. But depending on your living situation, walking more to do errands may be a habit worth considering. It might even make your life more interesting and pleasant, and perhaps lengthen it as well because of the cardiovascular health benefits. Just think, if the worldwide supply of oil continues to be less available and more expensive, you could be well ahead of your friends and neighbors if you get started right now on this new 21st century essential behavior called walking.
Hugh R. Winig, M.D.