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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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
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
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.