A number of articles have been posted here about the benefits of walking. I wrote one of them myself, “Walk or Die”. The focus of that article is on the medical benefits and it is still here for those who are interested in reading it. The positive effects of walking on physical health are indisputable. However, there are other benefits, far beyond those of walking as a physical exercise
Walking is relaxing and reduces stress. Partly because you consume adrenaline, the stress hormone, by the sheer activity, but also because it breaks vicious circles of thoughts of problems. I'm sure many of you have discovered that a seemingly impossible problem can sometimes be resolved after a walk – or during a walk. It can partly be a phenomenon of small periods of relaxation of the mind, but you also think better while walking and the tendency to get stuck in a vicious circle of thoughts repeated again and again is reduced. Walking breaks the pattern, and the reason can – at least to an extent – be the changing environment around you. It provides distraction from the thoughts, much enough to stop them from sticking in fixed and repeated patterns – but not much enough to stop the -problem-solving process in your brain entirely.
In a purely physical sense, walking stimulates the blood circulation and provides the brain with more oxygen, which also affects your problem-solving capacity; you think better and are more creative.
If you – instead of focusing your mind inwards – direct your attention to your surroundings, walking also offers unique chances to explore the environment. Indeed, I have found it a superior way to explore all sorts of landbound environments, as well nature as cities or other human habitats.
The first thing I do when I come to a new city, irrespective of its size or my reason to be there, is to buy a map over it, and then I walk. If it is a big city, I take an area every day until have been everywhere. I don't only learn to find my way there, I may see every corner of the city. After only a few weeks, I often find myself knowing more about a city than many inborn locals, who often move over limited areas. They know everything about these areas, but other parts of the city remains “terra incognita” for them, just something they pass by in a car, bus or, even worse, with the Underground (Tube, Subway, Metro).
If you want to explore, the Underground is the worst imaginable way to move around. You will see only a little around the station of the area where you enter, and a little around the station of the area where you exit the Underground system. You get no sense of how the places are related, neither distance nor direction. If you have a map, that can offer some compensation and give you an idea about how the positions relate to each other, but you still have no clue of the real world in between them. Walking gives you a chance to really explore, with all your senses.
To get an optimal result of walking, however, it is necessary to walk alone. Company distracts; conversation takes your attention from the environment, and if you are walking with a local who already knows the way, you'll only follow him or her and won't learn anything.
Related article: Walk or Die
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