ENG 2150 – Hoodology
Advantages of Walking: How Walking Benefits the Welfare of our Mind and Body
Walking. Those of us blessed with a decent pair of legs walk every now and then. It’s a common thing. Yet today it’s very easily neglected. People don’t believe walking has a significant effect on the mind and body. As technology advances, the practicality of walking diminishes with the addition of bikes, car services, and public transportation. People travel from one point to another, focused on getting to their destination in the shortest amount of time possible. They don’t acknowledge the surroundings passing by or the walking movement itself. It’s beneficial for us to absorb what’s in our surroundings; fully acknowledging everything we encounter. It aids our brain in creation and productivity. Walking is synonymous with the improvement of well-being. There are many benefits to walking including boosts in physical and mental state of well-being. There are endless benefits and the effects of walking will come to you instantly.
Notably, every single member of society should make a conscious effort to walk more throughout their lifetimes to cut waste and help themselves. My experiences walking are extremely valuable because they have provided my mind and body undeniable improvements. Walking empowers me because with every step I take I feel like I am releasing a burden off my back. My body loosens up and releases stress. My back straightens out. I get a good stretch in my legs that are bent or folded over for most of the day. My sore eyes finally get a rest from all the bright screens surrounding me. The switch from congested air to fresh outdoor air invigorates my lungs. Best of all, my mind for a moment becomes clear and my thoughts can roam free. It’s similar to how people pace around when brainstorming or talking on the phone. In my opinion, I believe that the increased blood flow is concurrent with a better functioning brain. From personal experience, I’ve found that I prefer to walk in areas that offer something appealing to look at. I separate most of what I see while walking into two groups. The first group contains visuals that are created by nature and the second consists of man-made architecture. Nature always humbles me. Pink blossom trees are a prime example of something I love to encounter because they are such a beautiful sight to see. It shows me what a wonderful artist Mother Nature is, and this brings me down to earth. Alternatively, man-made areas can come in many forms. We as humans have progressed exponentially, and our creations have followed suit. Cars, buildings, storefronts, or anything that catches my attention provides me with inspiration. The weekly walks have given me a stronger urge to photograph these places or things and engrave them into the internet where it will be available for others to see. In my opinion, taking pictures is an aspect of walking that is overlooked. Many people take pictures, but they don’t think about the ripple effect it has. When people take pictures and upload it to the internet, it reaches such a vast audience of people because how easily things spread across the internet through shares. Additionally, it allows those people who don’t have the opportunity to visit this place to get some sort of idea of what the place encompasses. They are given clues that they can piece together to create an image inside their minds. This is limited of course because these pictures are two dimensional and can’t compare to the actual three-dimensional world we live in. Having images prior to visiting can be very enjoyable and helpful. Before I visit a completely new place I try to find pictures or videos of the place just to get a sense of what it’s like. What’s more, cars take us from one point to another. We are restricted to a small space inside a moving vehicle with windows that provide a limited view. Imagine walking the whole entire journey or maybe even a portion of the way. There’s so much to see and take in along the way. Walking supports and strengthens the most important muscle in your body, your heart. Cardiovascular health is extremely important because it’s what determines how properly our hearts work. A lot of people neglect walking because it doesn’t seem significant enough to really affect our health. The caloric burn per minute is very minimal. However, the importance of walking is the distance traveled. A walk around the block won’t have the same effect as walking around the mall or through a park. Interaction with people is very important, in my opinion, because a lot of people in our generation lock themselves up in their rooms with their computers and tablets and televisions. They neglect interaction and conversation with other humans and this leads to many subconscious issues, such as social anxiety. When you’re out there surrounded by other people you feel like a part of humanity and the world. Being with people is more connected than what social media promotes as connection through the web. Just being outside and walking can easily lead you to meet someone new and strike up a conversation. Conversation is very helpful because it takes us out of isolation and our own minds. A lot of people suffer from depression from loneliness and the harmful thoughts that circulate in their head. Leaving the house to stretch your legs and take a brisk walk can remedy these issues.
Nevertheless, walking has its disadvantages when the surrounding in which you are walking in is being accounted for. Cities and neighborhoods propose danger to everyone because everyone must walk on the streets at some point. Crime such as theft, assault, rape, kidnapping, and murder happens on the streets. Along with things that happen 24 hours a day that can’t be accounted for like car accidents. All of this can make leaving the safety of home intimidating. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce and maybe even eliminate these dangers. Jane Jacobs discusses many of these in her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She particularly attacks the issues surrounding cities in her chapter, The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety. Populated sidewalks are one of the biggest divergences to troublemakers. If walking is promoted to everyone than the streets will have more people on them and as a result scare criminal off. “The sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.” In addition, street lights are very integral in keeping crime rates at a minimum. Better lit sidewalks increase the chance of criminals getting caught in the act because it allows people to see the streets better. All in all, a busy, well-lit street will deter any bad occurrences from taking place.
Subsequently, my neighborhood is a great example of a safe place to walk in because it applies many of the critical ideas that Jane Jacobs discusses. The main street is lined with all kinds of retail stores, clubs, and lounges to attract the attention of pedestrians. Many activities are offered while walking as well as public areas for people sit and converse. There are two pet stores that garner a lot of attention because of their adorable puppies and kittens. I’ve made conversation over there with many people about the dogs and have stayed in contact with some because I discovered that they live nearby and hang out at the places I do. The park is an exceptional place for walking because the activities there are physically beneficial, and the vibe is great. The place encompasses all age groups from little children to elders. When warm weather rolls around the place intensifies and there’s no way you can walk through without talking to at least one person. Every person in my community takes care of their own responsibilities so that everyone can enjoy a safe environment. For the most part, my neighborhood has a lot of families with children and therefore it is extremely important for parents to do everything in their power to create a safe environment for their children. The neighborhood is very populated and diverse so to protect everyone’s interests people come together to help the community out. People are always conversing with the police to ensure that there is no suspicious activity going unnoticed. This is what communities must do to protect their members so that these members can walk around peacefully and not have to encounter the danger that streets in general may possess.
A scientific approach to discover benefits of walking was taken by Stanford University. The study consisted of 4 different experiments that explored different aspects of walking compared to other alternatives. The focus of the study was to determine if walking increased creative thinking and produced more quality ideas. A lot of data was collected. In all experiments, different tests were given to measure creative thinking. All of them demonstrate that walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after. Overall people of all mental states can benefit from a walk anywhere. In Experiment 1, while seated and then when walking on a treadmill, adults completed Guilford’s alternate uses (GAU) test of creative divergent thinking and the compound remote associates (CRA) test of convergent thinking. Walking increased 81% of participants creativity on the GAU, but only increased 23% of participants scores for the CRA. The result of this experiment displays that walking compared to sitting demonstrates an average of 60% more creative output among the test subjects. “Physical exercise, rather than intellectual leisure activities, may be the best way to prevent age-related decline in brain functioning (Oppezzo, and Schwartz, 1144).” In Experiment 2, participants completed the GAU when seated and then walking, when walking and then seated, or when seated twice. Again, walking led to higher GAU scores. Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost. One of the main results that this experiment revealed was that alternating between walking and sitting made the uses participants come up with better ideas after every trial. As opposed to those sitting without walking who felt like their ideas were being suppressed. This experiment makes it clear that walking before a brainstorming session can be highly rewarding. Experiment 3 generalized the prior effects to outdoor walking. “The outdoors can offer cognitive and emotional renewal. Attention restoration theory (ART) posits that walking in natural environments invokes soft fascination, which does not require direct attention and allows for the renewal of directed attention capacities (Oppezzo, and Schwartz, 1145).” Walking outdoors resulted in even higher performances on the GAU. The discovery from this experiment further supports the idea from the previous experiment that taking a walk before brainstorming is beneficial. It was made apparent via Experiment 3 that the increased abilities provided from taking a walk lasted even while sitting after walking. Experiment 4 tested the effect of walking on creative analogy generation. Participants sat inside, walked on a treadmill inside, walked outside, or were rolled outside in a wheelchair. Walking outside produced the novelist and highest quality analogies. The effects of outdoor stimulation and walking were separable. Walking opens the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books ed., Vintage Books, 1992
Oppezzo, and Shwartz, Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking, Stanford University, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2014, Vol. 40, NO. 4, page 1142-1152
Weekly Walks. https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/zamil/