But what I didn’t know, especially as a result of Williams’ research, is just how good it was for me. And in the light of social distancing and remote working, I believe that safe outdoor excursions in your neighborhood is even more important.
I’ve been walking my whole life for exercise. I’ve noticed that if I’m troubled or upset that if I walk for at least 45 minutes, I feel noticeably better. What has troubled me isn’t gone, of course, but by the time I return I’m in a more confident state to face it.
According to Williams, there’s even more to walking that working out your troubles. In fact, historically some of the great minds in history have turned to walking for inspiration.
“The idea of solvitur ambulando (in walking it will be solved) has been around since St. Augustine, but well before that Aristotle thought and taught while walking the open-air parapets of the Lyceum. It has long been believed that walking in restorative settings could lead not only to physical vigor but to mental clarity and even bursts of genius, inspiration (with its etymology in breathing) and overall sanity. As French academic Frederic Grows writes in A Philosophy of Walking, it’s simply “the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found.” Jefferson walked to clear his mind, while Thoreau and Nietzsche, like Aristotle, walked to think. “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” wrote Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols. And Rosseau wrote in Confessions, “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.”
The book goes on to extrapolate on this premise using scientific research. One of the biggest discoveries was, “forty minutes of moderate walking per day could protect the aging brain from some cognitive decline, especially in executive functioning skills, memory, and psychomotor speed.”
As a result of this fascinating book, I’d like to suggest that writers everywhere get outside and do a little walking.
What will I get with 40 minutes of walking outdoors?
2. Endorphins from the exercise.
3. Elevated heart rate. I’m a 52-year old woman. I don’t exactly run marathons. Walking, and gentle hiking is about as strenuous as I can handle.
4. Fresh air. I’m fortunate to live in a place with a LOT of trees.
5. Fresh perspective. If I get away from my house and my laptop for an hour or so, I find emotional respite. Then, when I come back to my tasks, I’m energized to face them.
6. Inspiration. I find that when I am out of doors, I am drawn to the natural beauty of my local forests and wetlands. You probably have something beautiful outside too. Go look for it.
7. Creative stimulation. More than once I’ve solved a problem when I was outside. I think the quote above from The Nature Fix can work on nearly everyone.
10. Calories burned. And if I come back home and eat a donut after, I don’t feel so bad about it.
I highly recommend this book and the regular habit of going outside to walk. Find a way to do that today. It may make a huge difference in how you manage your time at home. You’ll be glad you did.