"What if a pharmaceutical company were to sell an anti-aging prescription drug designed to do just that? What if this miracle pill also promised to prevent, or manage, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mood and enhance your balance and co-ordination and all with no side-effects? There would be no end to the demand for this product. Interestingly enough, this miracle intervention does exist and has for some time. Not only are the results undisputed, but it comes at no cost to the user. Here is the twist. It does not come as a pill to be swallowed. It is a call to action. Written on your family doctor’s prescription pad, it would simply read walk every day. While you may still need medication prescribed by your doctor to treat what ails you, walking will help improve your health. The body is made for movement."
I’ve written in this blog before about my passion for walking. I learned this from my Dad who often went for long walks during lunch hour when he worked downtown. Downtown Halifax is known for steep hills so Dad used to go up and around the core, walking 30 minutes each afternoon, following the same route. When I was in university I found the walk to school and home very helpful to reduce stress, think about the day, make sense of my challenges, and allow new ideas to emerge. That latter piece is my biggest learning from long walks, it is amazing to me how a problem that appears to have no solution suddenly seems very manageable and a possible way forward will suddenly pop into my head.
My theory is that the walking releases our energy, focuses our physical bodies and thus opens our minds to wander. Instead of sitting still, fidgeting, worrying, our bodies restricted and contained, the walk opens us up, burns off nervous energy and frees our imaginations to consider the challenge.
I am now 52 and walk at least 5 km every day, most of it up hill and in at a very fast pace. The result is I feel better now than when I was 22. My waist size is the same as it was in university and my stamina and energy level far exceeds where I was as I young man. I like to practice my sermons when I walk (I don’t use notes when I preach). I find that a new word, a better story, a more helpful way to explain something, just comes to me in the walk. When I get back to the office I will add to the written text (for the website) the insight the walk has produced. I used to tell my wife not to worry about me when I worked late at night in Toronto because as I walked home along the Danforth practicing my sermon passersby provided a wide berth.
Here’s a spiritual discipline to practice. Take a problem you cannot solve, ask God for help, and then go for a long walk. If you are a verbal person like me talk it out. Believe me, no one will want to interrupt! When you are done walking think again about your challenge. Chances are some way forward will have come to you as a gift. Don’t forget to say thank you to God before you put your walking shoes away.