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A Tribute to the Heart

“The best remedy for a

short temper is a long walk.”

After preparations for the beach bonfire and evening meal were complete, I observed Lua quietly detach from the group and go for a long walk by herself. She took her ukulele with her.

 

When she returned, I asked her if something was wrong. She looked at me with a puzzled expression, smiled, and said,

 

“Oh no, Mister Rico … well, not anymore.”

 

“What do you mean ‘not anymore’?”

 

“I always find it a little stressful to meet many new people all at once. I am somewhat of an introvert, in case you hadn’t noticed. But walking helps me reduce stress and feel better whenever I feel a bit overwhelmed. I love walking.”

 

She went on to explain that, at home, she takes long walks every day. She said that we are born to walk and our bodies actually need it to remain healthy. It is the best, most available, and most natural form of exercise, after all.

 

Everybody who is able should walk every day as a tribute to the heart.

 

Walking is a simple, accessible way to reduce stress, get fresh air, recharge the mind, improve health, and reconnect with neighbors and with the natural world — all the things that enhance overall well-being. Walking is magical that way, Lua said.

 

And I had read that Plato and Aristotle did much of their best thinking together while walking. The movement, the meditation, the flow of the blood pumping, and the rhythm of footsteps — it is often touted as an elegant, simple, natural way to connect with one’s deeper self.

 

I followed,

 

“Well, sure. Exercise — especially slow, repetitive exercise — is really great; it is therapeutic. Whenever I’m feeling tense or stressed or like I’m about to have a meltdown, I’ll get on my bike and go for a long ride. It works wonders. In fact, I get some of my best song ideas while riding. It is said that Einstein claimed to have come up with the essence of his theory of relativity while riding a bicycle!”

 

Lua replied,

 

“That does not surprise me. Exercise has a calming effect on the mind. And a calm mind helps random, lonely little ideas mix and mingle and merge into big beautiful ideas.”

 

I had also read that many medical professionals promote regular exercise like walking as the most effective way to reduce the risks of many chronic diseases.

 

Walking for thirty minutes a day not only prevents, but may actually reverse many medical conditions and diseases such as type-2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, knee pain, Alzheimer’s in its early stages, chronic constipation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), edema caused by being sedentary, and fatty liver disease.

 

It can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

 

It can help prevent strokes, vascular dementia, osteoporosis, varicose veins, breast cancer, colon cancer, and cognitive impairment.

 

It can reduce stress and all the health problems that go with it.

 

It can even boost the immune system.

 

In fact, if walking were a drug, it would be so potent that it could probably be sold for $1000 a pill!

 

Walking also helps the lymphatic system do its job. Unlike the circulatory system, the human lymphatic system has no pump and so requires muscular movement to push lymph around.

 

Lymph does double duty in the body by distributing nutrients and removing cellular waste. We either incorporate substantial movement into our daily lives or pay a high price with our health.

 

Walking helps with sleep at night.

 

It enhances balance, making falls less likely in old age.

 

A short walk fifteen minutes after a meal evens out blood sugar and improves digestion.

 

Heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity are among the most common and costly of all health problems. These diseases not only kill people, they make them miserable along the way. And they are highly preventable—by walking.

 

Though we can get away with being active and a little overweight, we cannot be sedentary and expect to be very healthy.

 

Apart from inducing chronic disease, a sedentary lifestyle substantially increases the odds of depression. Walking, on the other hand, is proven to prevent depression.

 

If already depressed, walking can be as effective as anti-depressants in the short term and more effective in the long term. And, of course, it works its magic without any of the nasty side effects of pharmaceuticals.

 

People who walk (or bike) to work consistently have higher well-being scores than those who drive. The more time spent in a car, the more miserable, fat, and unhealthy we tend to get.

 

Moderate exercise such as walking reduces both anxiety and stress better than medications.

 

It should come as no surprise that walking in nature, or along a tranquil tree-lined street, is far more effective than walking next to a six-lane traffic sewer. The combination of nature and walking is so powerful that even a five-minute walk in a park will substantially elevate mood.

 

Walking boosts energy and reduces fatigue.

 

It reduces chronic back and joint pain.

 

It increases creative thinking and cognitive function.

 

It improves memory and attention span — especially valuable for the elderly and school-age children.

 

Moderate exercise such as walking is the number one way seniors can retain their health, mobility, and cognitive function as they age. Staying connected to friends, family, and neighbors of all ages is number two.

 

Walking around an intergenerational neighborhood regularly will do far more for well-being in old age than living in an expensive, car-dependent retirement community.

 

Numerous centenarians have touted walking as their key to longevity, noting that it helps them stay active and independent.

 

One WWII veteran I read about was delivering papers on foot until very late in life. He said that, to enjoy a long life, all one has to do is keep walking.

 

Though our bodies have evolved to move, we now overuse the immense cheap and easy energy released from combusting oil and other fossil fuels instead of using our own muscles to do any physical work — especially getting our bodies around locally from place to place.

 

I had read that, statistically, walking is actually far safer than driving in terms of fatalities. It’s curious that so many parents insist on driving their kids around in order to keep them safe from potential kidnappers, and yet car accidents are a major cause of death for children in the United States between ages one and nineteen.

 

And people who walk in their communities get to know the people in them better. They pay more attention to their surroundings and are less likely to get lost.

 

For Lua, walking was a way to reconnect with herself, her natural surroundings, and her inner truth.

 

She insisted that walking was a great way to alleviate some of the symptoms of ‘Nature deficit disorder’ endemic to many ‘advanced’ economies, and it was a vital activity for any truly ‘eco-literate’ society.

Sadly, a powerful and pervasive car culture in developed countries insulates and isolates so many of us from the natural world — and we will not likely protect and defend that which we can no longer relate to or do not deeply love.

 

This perverse car culture sends the wrong message, I thought to myself. Happiness and freedom are not found behind the wheel of car. Nor good health.

 

For honesty’s sake, car advertisements really should show drivers who are overweight, impoverished, and stressed-out, since that is the ultimate outcome of lifestyles so overly dependent on the automobile and so averse to walking and bicycling and to re-engaging with the natural world.

 

Lua counseled,

 

“We all need to walk more, Mister Rico, and reconnect with the natural world. Even if you don’t enjoy regular daily walks, it is good to remember this: the best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.”

 

“Not on a small boat!

 

I couldn’t resist.

 

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​© 2019 Rich 'Rico' Leon