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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Philosophizing: Why walking works

These are my thoughts about why walking works so well to make us healthier:

Once upon a time, long long ago, we walked everywhere we went. This is before cars, before horses and camels, before reindeer....

Not much before reindeer, though.

Here's the story I tell myself when I think of the time before cars and domesticated animals:

'We' (my ancestors, and maybe yours) left Africa and wandered to the Fertile Crescent. But this was before agriculture. Then we started following the retreating glaciers of a long-ago Ice Age. We walked northward well into Europe. Then came another Ice Age, and we went south again, possibly to Iberia. Then the ice finally retreated and we walked back to the north country, and some of 'us' found our way to the British Isles.

Even though all that took more than 50,000 years, it was still a lot of walking! And those for whom walking was good survived to pass that trait on to their kids and those for whom walking was not good did not survive to pass that trait on to their kids.

Walking takes us to where the food is. Walking takes us to shelter. And since we walked everywhere, our whole bodies are adapted to walking. For example, the motion of the muscles in our legs while we're in motion supplements the efforts of our heart. Walking aids digestion. Walking uphill builds our endurance, while the stretching we experience going downhill helps cells metabolize better. (This isn't understood, but it's true, and when someone walks up and down hill today it causes better heart function AND prevents diabetes!)

We evolved walking. We are adapted to walking. THEREFORE, walking is good for us. And if we do it, we will thrive. And if we don't - we don't at our peril.

That's it for now. Much more could be said, and I need to show the citations for these claims. I'll do it later, after I take a walk.

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