18 October 2013

Not just talking the talk, but walking the Useful Walk

I just passed my 2nd Anniversary of writing The Page Turner.  You know how I remember now?  I volunteered at the local library used book sale again!

Here's my VERY FIRST BLOG POST, about that book sale.

And I did shop the sale again... a little... not too much.  Maybe it was because I made the (pretty minimal) effort to walk to the library and back for my volunteer shift last night, rather than drive.  

I watched a Ted Talk this week featuring Jeff Speck.  Among the many interesting points in his talk, Speck, author of The Walkable City (haven't read it yet, but want to!), says, "We've talked a long time about diet and we know that diet impacts weight, and weight impacts health.  But we've only started talking about inactivity.  Inactivity, born of our [car-dependent] landscape.  Inactivity that comes from the fact that we live in a place where there's no longer any such thing as 'the useful walk.'  [This is what] is driving our weight up." (TedTalks, Oct 2013)

A key point here is The Useful Walk.  I know a lot of people who KNOW they "should exercise more," and beat themselves up that they don't.  But what if instead of having to get in a car, they could choose to walk because there was someplace meaningful to get to - on foot?  Instead of  work or school, shopping, and errands all being car-oriented, and then having to carve out other time for a walk or run (essentially to "nowhere"), what if the two could be re-unified?  You could live a life where purposeful movement and exercise were happening at the SAME time.  Talk about multitasking.

New signage reminding you of  The Useful Walk in Columbia, MO
(photo courtesy "KOMUnews", Flickr Creative Commons)
While I was at the sale, I mentioned to another volunteer that I had walked over.  She replied, "oh, that's good.  You know, I heard that 'sitting is the new smoking.'"  Wow.  Our culture of work sitting down (and yes, I'm sitting as I write this) is as bad for us as smoking.  (Were we more okay when we walked a lot AND smoked? Hmm...)

My WalkScore is 66.  There are many, stores, restaurants, services of all kinds within a mile of my house.  I have a co-worker whose home rates at 48 on WalkScore, which identifies it as "car-dependent," but in spite of that, he has been walking the hour to work most days.  (According to WalkScore, that also saves him well over $100/mo.)

My walk to and from the library was a very pleasant one.  On the way there, I nodded hello to six other people with whom I would have had no interaction with otherwise.  I noticed two women sitting on a front porch, chatting.  I noticed the colorful leaves on the trees and on the ground, and I stopped for a moment and picked up a few particularly beautiful fallen leaves and looked at them more closely as I walked.  I noticed some political signage posted in a neighbor's yard, and I pondered that candidate, and that issue.

(I also noticed that my shoes were not as comfortable for walking as they should be.  A much longer walk and I would have had blisters.  This is something to consider as I buy shoes; I should be investing in some very functional ones as well as "chic" ones.  I can always carry my snazzy ones with me and change when I arrive.)

On the way back, the moon was full and bright and it wasn't cold.  My neighborhood was quiet and peaceful.  I noticed homes with all the shades drawn, and others with windows that revealed the people living inside, most with the blue flicker of the television on.  A couple of dogs did their doggy job and barked, "Hey you out there!"  

I was nearly home when a neighbor, who I know well, drove past me on the street, and then stopped and called out to me, "Are you okay?"  Think about that for a little bit.  His initial thought about me, on foot, was that something could be wrong.  I deeply appreciate his genuine concern, but shouldn't our greater concern be: why would a human being, walking with purpose, be a sign for alarm?

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