National Walking Day and Famous Walkers

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 is National Walking Day. The American Heart Association has sponsored this occasion on the first Wednesday in April since 2007.

National Walking Day is all about encouraging Americans to be active and start walking but also to turn physical activity into a consistent part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you haven’t been active or exercising in awhile, don’t sweat it. You can start with one step at a time. Start with a few minutes when you begin, and each day you can gradualy increase the time and distance you walk. Walking is easier to stick to and an easier commitment to work into your life. Statistics prove that people keep walking and “stick to it” more than any other form of exercise.

Most articles and posts about National Walking Day will tell you about all the health benefits of walking or how quickly you can experience benefits from walking. We could also share with you why your boss wants you to wear a Fitbit or other activity tracker. We aren’t going to do that in this post. You can get facts about walking or learn more about the benefits of walking here on Walkingspree’s blog or on the American Heart Association’s website which has a section devoted to walking.

Instead, we want to bring your attention to three famous walkers who were known for their intelligence and their creativity in their time. It is said that these men used walking as a way to generate ideas, creative thinking and to solve problems.

Once upon a time, people walked pretty much everywhere. When there were no planes, trains or automobiles, people walked. Often, a family could not afford a horse or other conveyance. So, they walked. You might think they walked because they had to – and you’d be right. But history also shows that some individuals walked because they knew they functioned and performed better when they took walks. Let’s take a look:


Portrait of Aristotle set on a restored bust. Mid-2d Century A.D. (artist unknown)

When most of think of Aristotle, we envision some “old dude” with a long beard. Probably in robes. And, if you’re like a couple of us here at Walkingspree, you envision him sitting on the ground in a circle talking to his followers and his students as they listen carefully, taking notes a on a scroll or something.

Well, it turns out that Aristotle (born in 384 B.C.) was not only a Greek philosopher, whose contemporaries included Plato and Socrates, but he also headed a school that he, personally, founded. The Lyceum was commonly known as the Peripatetic School. Again, if you are like most people, you won’t recognize that the word “peripatetic” is actually a form of the Greek word , peripatetikos – which means “walking around.” (If you are one of the few who knew that word already: You rock! Now, give yourself a pat on the back and keep reading with the rest of us…)   Aristotle recognized the brain’s ability to focus on the matter at hand  (instead of daily stresses an anxiety) while walking. Walking was so much a part of the way that Aristotle taught that his students (or followers) literally followed him about as he taught and they became known as Peripatetic’s.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle

William Wordsworth at age 28 by William Shuter

Perhaps one of the most famous poets, William Wordsworth walked nearly 175 thousand miles throughout his life while sustaining a high-volume writing vocation. “Wordsworth’s walking was writing, in a way. As he saw it, the actof walking was “indivisible” from the act of writing poetry.  He needed to walk in order to write.”**

Charles Dickens in 1858. Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, by G. K. Chesterton, Published 1911.

Charles Dickens, considered the greatest author in the Victorian era (A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and more) was also an avid walker. History says he would write from 9am-2pm and then head out for a long walk.  Apparently, walking a 20-30 miles in a day was all a part of his normal routine. Dickens walked so far, so much at different times friends would worry and wonder if he had a harmful addiction.  Dicken’s wrote plays, more than a dozen novels and other materials. Walking was very much is inspiration.

Dickens once said that if he couldn’t walk “far and fast,” he would “explode and perish.”

That’s just three people whose work was dramatically and positively impacted by walking.

What can you accomplish?  Quite a bit! By walking just 30 minutes a day, a person can drastically decrease their risk of just about every health problem: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer — even depression and Alzheimer’s.

And that’s just the beginning.  So, lace up and go out for a walk and remember to wear your walking shoes or take them with you wherever you go on Wednesday for National Walking Day.

**How Did Walking Serve as an Integrative Activity for Wordsworth? by Trina-Marie Baird, 2008, Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University

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