A few years ago, I interviewed Meigo Mark – a European traveller who was on a mission to walk 40,075 kilometres. Why? Because it is the total length of the equator. His journey took him from his home in Estonia to many countries including India. I remember asking him if it was hard to wake up each day to walk. He had said, “Walking feels like the mission of the heart, mind and spirit.” I have looked at the simple act of walking very differently since.
Meigo Mark completed the distance in 2018, then walked some more until he met a woman, fell in love, married and now lives with his lovely wife and adorable daughter. He truly walked into his new life. And that’s just one reason why walking is awesome. Let’s see the rest…
Talking about the medical benefits of walking makes a good way to start.
The World Health Organisation says, “it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, help control weight, and promote mental well-being.” Of course, compared to other regular physical activities, walking is the safest! While jogging, running and cycling can help burn calories faster than walking, they all pose a threat to your knees. Walking, specifically fast-paced, helps promote overall well-being without the exertion of the knees.
Mental health specialists around the world also agree that walking is a great way to de-stress and cope with mental ailments like anxiety, depression and fatigue. A fast paced, long walk every day can help boost your mood and keep the seasonal blues at bay as well. Walking also helps you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.
Chan Lishan is a mental health advocate who says, “I usually do my walking at parks, nature reserves, or around the reservoirs. Research all over the world has shown that engagement with nature is strongly linked to mental well-being and happiness.”
Over the course of organising several heritage and nature walks for Alpaviram, I too have found the walks to be deeply rejuvenating aside from being a confidence booster.
In a report on ‘Walk Your Way To Health’, Tomislav Benjak, stated, “After the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Trim and Fitness International Sport for All Association proposed naming October 15 the World Walking Day. The idea was to get as many people out into the nature to develop awareness about the need for environmental protection and physical activity (walking in particular) as the simplest and most purposeful form of maintaining and improving one’s health. This year too, October 15 will be observed across the world and in Croatia. This is the ideal opportunity to start, or consolidate, one of the most health-beneficial habits.”
But how does walking make one a superhero?
First, it gives you strength. It helps builds a positive attitude. It builds stamina so you get things done.
And then, when one looks at the sustainable living perspective, walking makes a lot more sense. Walking allows you to reduce your carbon footprint. That is, walking down to the market (in India) is a greener option when compared to taking your car.
Walking allows you time to take in the change in nature around you. With millions living in the cities suffering from ‘tree-blindness’, regular walkers can keep an eye out on trees being felled or birds and animals living in those trees being affected.
As Ebru Cubukcu has stated in his paper, “Walkable communities help to cut greenhouse gas and other emissions by requiring less driving, improve residents’ health by providing more opportunities for exercise, reduce crime by facilitating social interaction, support local economy by encouraging shopping in the neighborhood.”
And isn’t that a superpower? Being fit, strong, energetic, attentive, empathetic and aware? The best part is that you can choose to be a superhero today! Start walking, around your house, around your neighourhood, around your city. Just smile and walk!
Feature Image courtesy: Sid Balachandran (Unsplash)
Text by Susmita Mukherjee