Walking. I’ve been doing it for 74 years but I never want to take this miraculous skill for granted. Many of my friends have crook knees or ankles. Some have cranky hips or ceramic hips or bad backs. Some have MS or asthma or bronchiectasis. I’m humbled by their courage and ingenuity as they continue to get around, one way or the other.
Walking is tangled up with independence and free will as well as health and fun.
Walking style provides cues about health
Walking is also linked to youthfulness. Not-walking is a fear associated with old age.
This obvious fact hit me like a ton of bricks when a friend came to stay recently. A whole bunch of odd problems had me worried. At pedestrian crossings, I had to restrain her from rushing across when the red man said Stop, because her automatic impulse was to jaywalk. She was confused about distances and directions and buses and taxis. She rushed ahead, leaning forwards at an angle, then stopped often to take a breath. I’m pretty slow on the uptake, but after a couple of days, I finally got the message: she was ill.
A few months later we learned that she had a form of motor neuron disease. A year later, she was dead.
Join the non-existent leg-appreciation society
But this blog post is not about the larger topic of my friend’s devastating illness and death. It’s about walking.
Walking is simple, natural, automatic, free, always available day or night—no trainer, gym or special equipment required. And this precious skill can be eroded by illness or accident.
After my friend’s visit, I love my legs more than ever. I plan to love them and use them and learn from them for many more years. In fact I may start an international leg-appreciation society. When my own legs stop working quite so well one day. I will still appreciate what they used to do, decade after decade, without a job description or vision statement or instruction manual.
They have done so much more than walk. They have negotiated footpaths and steps and mountain trails and forests and beaches and farms. They have carried me up and down hills and cliffs and over ice and snow and sand. They have kept me afloat through surf and rivers and lagoons. They have crawled and skipped and skied and marched and run and kicked and danced and squatted and pranced and lunged and planked. They have raised me safely out of chairs and baths and pot-holes.
Thank you legs!
Phone apps for walking
Breeze used to be my favourite phone app. Its daily cheerleading made me aware of how far I was walking each day. I wiped the app one day when my phone was overloaded with data. Now I want Breeze back again, but my phone tells me I have to get it through the Romanian app store. Romania? I dunno. Beats me.
With a compatible app, walking becomes a substantial component of the exercise regime instead of a means of getting from A. to B. If at first you take only 400 steps on a typical day, that’s not a tragedy, it’s an opportunity. Such satisfaction lies ahead as you notch up the steps, little by little, day by day.
P.S. I think my daily steps are usually around 7000. I think They want me to buy a Fitbit.
Mechanical toy via Internet Archive Book Images, from Scientific American March 1903. Shadow legs a selfie by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 3.0