A Country Doctor Reads: Why Walking Matters – The Wall Street Journal

With the snow finally mostly gone here in northern Maine, I walked the perimeter of the horse pasture to inspect the fence this weekend. Down by the barn I felt warm in just my long sleeved shirt, but at the higher elevation there was a slight chill in the air. I quickened my steps and felt invigorated and inspired, thinking about my spring projects. It was my first walk in months, beyond just between the different outbuildings “down on the farm”.

Later that day, I came across a WSJ article about the health benefits and chemistry involved in this very basic but sometimes neglected human activity. It was an obvious reminder of how our bodies are made to do certain things, and how mostly sitting and hardly any walking isn’t good for us.

What we prob­a­bly don’t re­al­ize is that walk­ing can be a kind of a be­hav­ioral pre­ven­tive against de­pres­sion. It ben­e­fits us on many lev­els, phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal. Walk­ing helps to pro­duce pro­tein mol­e­cules in mus­cle and brain that help re­pair wear and tear. These mus­cle and brain mol­e­cules—myokines and neu­rotrophic fac­tors, re­spec­tively—have been in­ten­sively stud­ied in re­cent years for their health ef­fects. We are dis­cov­er­ing that they act al­most as a kind of fer­til­izer that as­sists in the growth of cells and reg­u­la­tion of metabolism. They also re­duce cer­tain types of in­flam­ma­tion.

Ex­per­i­ments by the psy­chol­o­gists Mar­ily Opezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity have shown that walk­ing boosts cre­ativ­ity. They asked peo­ple to quickly come up with al­ter­na­tive uses for com­mon ob­jects, such as a pen. They found that peo­ple whom they got to walk be­fore com­ing up with al­ter­na­tive uses came up with al­most twice as many novel ideas as those who re­mained seated.


From other readings, I understand Aristotle did some of his best thinking and teaching while walking, and he founded the peripatetic school, which literally means walking around, in part because he was not a citizen of Athens and couldn’t own property there and instead used public places like the Lyceum for his teaching.

Other famous thinkers who practiced walking for creativity and inspiration are said to include Einstein, Asimov, Beethoven, Freud, Faulkner, Kafka, Hobbs, Descartes, Tolstoy, Hawthorne, Tchaikovsky, Darwin and Dickens, writes Rob Howard on Medium.

So, beyond the physical benefits of walking, we must not ignore its creative and spiritual benefits.

3 Responses to “A Country Doctor Reads: Why Walking Matters – The Wall Street Journal”

  1. 1 Jean Manly April 20, 2020 at 6:37 am

    Fascinating, but wrong source, as I discovered when I clicked on the link, this does not refer to an article from the NYT (to which I have a subscription) but rather from the Wall Street Journal. I was unable to read more of the article, for unlike the NYT, the WSJ doesn’t allow a few free reads each month.

  2. 3 sam April 20, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Due to back issues my walking dropped to almost nothing. After a round of PT I’m up to 4-5 miles a day. It helps with everything physical & mental.

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