I think we ruined walking when we decided it was a great form of exercise. Low impact, aerobic, cardio, weight loss, endorphins, stress buster, mental health boost, $200 shoes, treadmills—walking has gotten pretty complicated in recent years. And being told something is good for you takes some of the fun out of it, as far as I’m concerned.
Think about how simple, enjoyable, and useful walking is. It’s one of the first things we learn to do in life. You really don’t need expensive equipment; in fact, you don’t even need shoes. You can walk alone or with others. It’s the world’s cheapest and greenest form of transportation. If you’re in a hurry you can speed things up and run.
Walking efficiently gets you from point A to point B, but it also allows you to discover points C through Z along the way. The intention behind this month’s “Walk This Way” collection of stories is to remind us how much there is to appreciate around us when we walk—natural and man-made beauty, history, community, and companionship. It’s available with a ridiculously low barrier to entry, too; just put one foot in front of the other and move.
Cincinnati’s earliest citizens walked because they had no other options, and they built stone staircases to conquer the hills. We can still use some of them today. After the automobile took over, we developed entire suburbs without sidewalks so we didn’t have to walk anywhere, which seemed like progress. And now we reclaim abandoned railroad tracks and unused riverfront space to build walking, running, and biking trails that connect neighborhoods, towns, counties, and states. “Pedestrian access” is how we measure progress these days.
I have a framed knickknack on my mantel at home that says “Not all who wander are lost.” I’m a strong believer in the idea that life’s about the journey, not the destination. Here’s a riff on that saying regarding this month’s issue: Not all who walk are trying to go somewhere. Cincinnati is filled with people out for a walk and a journey; just don’t tell them it’s exercise.