Walking on two feet is a uniquely human skill. This fundamental act sets humans apart. Walking made it possible for individuals to make their way out of Africa and trek to the four corners of the earth. Walking frees hands and minds to throw, to gather food and carry children. It stimulates our minds, enlarges the scope of our senses, and brings us together in all sorts of relationships. Most of us take countless steps every day without thinking about the advantages of walking.
Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara encourages us to marvel at the benefits of bipedalism. “In Praise of Walking” celebrates this distinctive ability that had its origins on the ocean floor eons ago. He reports on the most recent research revealing how the brain and nervous system work their miracle of balancing the body so humans can navigate.
Walking strengthens muscles, protects and repairs organs, improves posture, and slows brain aging. “Regular walking confers enduring and substantial benefits on the individuals, and on society at large.” It improves our “moods, clarity of thought, our creativity, ” as well as “our connectedness to our social, urban and natural worlds.”
People think more creatively when walking, their stress level falls and their mood improves. Walking together with others with a shared purpose provides the social bond that contributes to the survival of homo sapiens.
Human beings are better for walking according to O’Mara who calls for people to make it a way of life. “If undertaken in regular doses it provides the small, cumulative and significant positive changes for lung, heart and especially brain health.”
This hymn to walking discourages the sedentary life and encourages the reader to get moving. Those who have analytical and clinical interests will find this book insightful as the first half addresses the mechanics of walking. The second half deals with the social and emotional benefits of walking and has wider appeal.