Walking, all serious walkers know, is more than mere locomotion. Health to some, satori to others, it seems to prove all the hoary old adages about happiness being within easy reach if only we knew it. It is sublime in its simplicity. It needs no money, no equipment, no planning, no prior arrangements, no skill – nothing; you step outside, close your door, turn left or right as the fancy takes you, and are as free as any bird in the air. A bird looking down on a walker may well think to itself, “That’s the human way of flying.”
The satorial aspects are well summed up by the Zen monk-beggar-tramp-haikuist Taneda Santoka (1882-1940), who wrote of “a realm of roundness, wholeness that transcends self and others… I have to walk, walk, walk until I get there.”
A staunch medical advocate is Dr Kazuhiro Nagao, whose 2018 bestseller bears a title that pretty much speaks for itself: “90 percent of illnesses are curable by walking.” Preventable too, no doubt.
Josei Seven (Aug 18-25) joins the chorus. Walking can add 20 years to your life, it says, citing American research. Data collected among people over 64 point to a startling inference: those who walk 0.2 meters per second have a life expectancy of 74 years; 0.8 meters per second, 80 years; 1.6 meters per second, 95 years.
Walk 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day, experts say, and look forward to a fully ambulatory old age, heading into the 90s without even leaning on a cane.
Three thousand steps a day is little enough, and yet modern conveniences are such that you can easily get through a day with less. Your car takes you here, a taxi whisks you there, public transport is and goes everywhere – why walk? Why leave the house at all, given online shopping, remote work and a natural inclination to avoid the COVID-19-ridden outside world as much as possible?
As walking declines, bodies slacken, and minds too, it may be. Everyone knows that walking tones muscles. To the same extent it stimulates minds. Thoughts grow expansive in the open air. You think thoughts walking outdoors that would never occur to you at rest within four walls. It’s more than the heightened flow of blood to the brain, though it’s that too. Maybe it’s the sheer mindlessness of it. Almost any activity demands at least some concentration; walking, none. Thus liberated, and prodded to action by the body’s happy vigor, the mind takes wing.
That said, there’s a right way to walk and many wrong ways, Josei Seven hears from “walking specialist” Mayu Yamaguchi. Some people walk like pelicans, others like penguins, others still like gorillas. They are not the role models for us.
Who wants to walk like a penguin? Nobody, but our occupations leave their imprint on us while our minds are elsewhere. Deskbound workers tend to walk as they sit – head bent, spine curved, with deleterious impact on neck, shoulders and knees. That’s the human penguin strut. The pelican walk characterizes the service industry – spine curved backward rather than forward; very hard on the lower back. Gorillas, head held high and chest thrust outward, are proud beasts; still, not quite human for all that, and executives and women in high heels should be on their guard against an unconscious tendency to stride gorilla-style.
Which of the bipeds, then, should we learn from? The flamingo, says Yamaguchi – head high but not too high, eyes focused 10 meters ahead, knees straight, front foot up at the toes and down on the heel, rear foot down on the toes and up at the heel.
What more need you know? You are now ready for a walk.© Japan Today