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Benefits within walking distance:

Take it all with a stride

One day, when Marc Andreessen, the money man behind- such tech giants as Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga, was out driving around his home in Palo Alto, California, he nearly hit an old man crossing the street. Looking back from the rear mirror he noticed the trademark blue jeans and black turtle neck. "Oh my god! I almost hit Steve Jobs!" he thought to himself.

It was Jobs that day, out on one of his many brisk walks around the Palo Alto area, where Apple was based. Steve Jobs used brisk walking for exercise, contemplation, problem solving, and even meetings.

And Jobs was not alone. Throughout history the best artists, creators, writers, musicians and thinkers, have found that brisk walking, whether a fifteen-minute jaunt, or a long four -hour trek, has helped them compose, write, paint, and create.

Aristotle conducted his lectures while striding the grounds of his school in Athens. Charles Dickens went for long brisk walks after the mid-day meal. Ludwig van Beethoven took several breaks for a '10-minute runout into the open' every morning. And then, after a midday meal, he would take a longer, more vigorous 'promenade' lasting 2-3 hours.

Brisk walking

I can give at least another 50 world famous creative personnel who were proponents of brisk walking. All of them found daily strides critical to their health, energy, mental clarity and, ultimately, at least in some part, their success.

But, it was not mere walking they were doing, it was striding (brisk walking). Any heart specialist will tell you that walking briskly, not just strolling, is the simplest and easiest form of exercise that can be done without equipment, except good shoes, in almost any terrain and weather, and into very old age.

Sauntering, window-shopping, ambling-these do not bring the stride into action, and, slow though they are, they are often tiring. We all have our own stride - and hitting it, for one long distance or several short distances, will bring us the boons of this distance-eating, time saving, untiring, pleasurable motion that is so natural to the human species.

No other creature plants down a heel, rolls on a sole to a springy big toe in a movement in which both feet are on the ground together, only 25 percent of the time, knees bending smoothly, muscles flexing easily, pelvic saddle swivelling in a marvel of simple engineering.

"1 have two doctors," goes the old adage, "my left leg and my right." A heart specialist can back this up, saying, "A vigorous five-kilometre walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world."

Here's why:

Brisk walking improves blood circulation. All of the benefits are closely keyed to the increased oxygen intake, greater heart exercise and better blood circulation that this natural exercise provides. The human muscular system acts as an auxiliary blood pump, returning blood to the heart. Since the leg muscles are the most powerful muscles in the body, their work is very important. But, if they are not being used much, at least, with any vigour, then they are not squeezing the blood back toward the heart with any force.

Brisk walking is also important as it affects the human capillary system. There are 96,000 kilometres of blood vessels in the body, mostly capillaries. Only a few will open when a muscle is at rest; perhaps 50 times as many will open when the muscle is being exercised. It is said, a sturdy daily activity such as brisk walking will not only awaken dormant capillaries, but, apparently increase the number of the vessels that nourish the muscles.

Benefits

It's folklore knowledge that walking helps dispel a temper, and when we walk briskly down the road for 20 minutes, it'll naturally dissolve. I once accompanied a friend who plunged out into the night after a disagreement, in which others had kept their tempers and he had lost his. After thirty minutes of striding, he was feeling less explosive and more rational. When we returned, the discussion was resumed with composure.

The point in favour of brisk walking is that you don't have to schedule it; but, just incorporate it in your daily lifestyle. If you have a few blocks to go on an errand, walk them briskly, as well as the short distance between transportation point and office.

Since a 20-minute short brisk walk is worth three and half kilometres of ambling, you can easily get in a minimal amount of good exercise every day. And, as striding becomes a habit, you will soon get more exercise, willingly.

You will become aware that your mind is clearer, and eyes brighter. You'll feel as though you're looking out of newly cleaned windows, and know that you are adding to your body's resources. Benefits within walking distance.

Finally, a note of caution: Experts do not make claims that daily striding will increase your lifespan. There is no hard proof that it will, the most that they say is, with a brisk walk daily, you could remain youthful in condition, if not in chronological years.

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