Apparently the ancient Egyptians criticised the ancient Greek for inventing gyms – the Egyptians thought that if you needed a special place to go to exercise, there must be something wrong with your daily routine; I can see their point of view. For instance, we are getting out of the habit of walking. Even a couple of hundred years ago, people used to walk a lot more than they do now. The father of the painter JMW Turner thought nothing of walking the twelve miles from his home in Twickenham to his son’s studio in central London, and then back again in the evening - a round trip of 24 miles!
But part from such prodigious hikes as this, there is a lot of benefit to be had, for example, from walking to the shops rather than taking the car. I regularly walk to our local supermarket about a mile and a half away. It’s pretty suburban, but there is a nice path across a golf course and by the side of a little brook. Apart from the exercise it feels good to be among trees and bushes, birds and wild flowers even for just a few minutes (although you have to watch for the golf balls!)
Another thing I like about walking is that if gives your feet a bit of a massage (at no extra cost!) - especially if you walk over uneven ground. All you have to do to get this massage is to take your attention to the sensations in your feet as you walk – I’m always surprised how pleasurable this is.
Our feet have evolved to carry us over uneven terrain, and if we don’t use them at all for this – either because we only ever walk on unnaturally flat surfaces, or we don’t walk much at all – we can expect problems. As an acupuncturist I often treat people for plantar fasciitis – a painful inflammation of the sole of the foot – and I wonder if part of the reason that some people get this is that they are not using their feet as nature intended.
In general, it is well worth bearing in mind that the human body is, as the theory of evolution makes clear, supremely well adapted to a certain way of life. Its just that we do not follow that way of life anymore! We don’t live in the way our ancestors have lived over the past few thousand years. Rapid technological advancement has meant that the kind of life that many of us now lead is not the kind of life our body is adapted to lead. Walking, or the lack of it, is a prime example. We can’t turn back the clock to before the industrial revolution, but if we are wise we can at least incorporate things like walking in our life a bit more.
Perhaps you are thinking something like, ‘well, I haven’t got time to walk to the shops’. But then, have you got the time to wait in the doctor’s waiting room, or to lie on an acupuncturist’s couch?