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Walking for health.


Walking is one of the commonest acts of life and, consequently, is considered by many persons as unimportant and almost devoid of beneficial results. This is an erroneous supposition, as a brisk, vigorous walk in the open air is one of the best forms of physical activity that one can indulge in. Although walking is a common exercise, it is not unimportant, as one can in a few hours reach the highest total of labor of which the body is capable. To prove that it is not a trifling act, observe an infant while it is learning this most necessary mode of locomotion. It has hundreds of falls before perfect equilibrium becomes established. After the infant has mastered the art of walking, the will is scarcely used, and this rhythmic exercise becomes semiautomatic, due to the fact that each step or movement tends largely to prepare for the next.

The reason walking is such a health-giving exercise is that the work is distibuted over many muscles, and these are the strongest in the body. None of these muscles needs be taxed to its full capacity, but may merely be used in a slight or moderate effort. It is the addition of these slight efforts which makes the whole force so great. The writer, together with nine students from the University of Penssylvania, recently walked from Philadelphia to New York City, a distance of 105 miles, in three days. Each of these students testified to the fact that he felt better after the walk than before; that, instead of losing energy, he said increased vigor. This is very interesting from a physiologic and anatomic standpoint when one considers that, in order to walk 33 1/3 miles, each lower limb must be moved about 40,000 times, or both of them 80,000. The arms swinging at the sides would move about the same number, thus making a total of 160,000. Multiply this sum by 200 muscles brought into greater or less action at every step, and we have a total of 32 million.

A cheap Cure for the


Of course, some will say that after a person had walked 100 miles in three days, and performed 32 million muscular movements, he would be "all in," and would require a week's rest to recuperate. This statement is fallacious, as long-distance walkers keep at it month after month, and declare that they are benefited. Take for an illustration Edward P. Weston, the 71-year-old youth, who average daily, during his recent trip from coast to coast, 37 miles, and completed the trip in 105 days. Carrying out the average of 37 1/3 miles per day for 100 days gives us the startling product of 3.2 billion muscular movements. Mr. Weston does not seem to have lost vigor with his increasing years, for, when he was 28 1/2 years of age, he walked from Portland, Maine, to Chicago, Illinois, a distance of 1,234 miles. forty years later, or when he was 68 1/2 years of age, he repeated this performance, breaking his former record by a day. On the first trip, the longest distance in one day was 82 miles, while in the latter, 95.3 miles were accomplished. On the second trip he had an average of over 40 miles per day. No one can doubt, after observing these figures, that great force is expended in a walk of 30 or more miles.

The writer has found that the best way to regain physical poise and efficiency after a strenuous winter's work is to take a five of six days' hike among the hills, or through the country. This tramping expedition is not only more economical than the shore or mountain resort, but it also gives one recreation, due to the constantly changing scenes. IF a business or professional man is suffering from nerves and approaching the ragged edge, he will find that a week's walking trip will tone up the vitiated blood by highly oxygenating it, and cause it to flow through the body with increased energy. Horace Greeley said, "A walk of two or three hundred miles in a calm, clear October is one of the cheap luxuries of life, as free to the poor as the rich." The writer heartily concurs with this statement, but, instead of limiting it to one month, would make it good for all 12.

During a walking trip it is not necessary to make a town or city in order to sleep in a hotel. Explain to a farmer your undertaking, and seek lodging with him. He can tell by your appearance and manners that you are not an ordinary tramp. He will, at least, let you have part of a hay or straw stack for a bed, and such bed! It must be slept upon to be appreciated. After a breakfast of ham and eggs, bread, butter, coffee--and pie-- you feel no ill effects, whereas had you eaten the same food at home you would probably have visited the drug-store before noon, to find relief.

Philadelphia Walking Clubs

Group walking appeals to some, whereas rambling alone is apt to become irksome and monotonous. The association and enthusiasm of others of the same mind prove an incentive to walking, and transform it from an act of labor to one of recreation. Join a walking club, or, if this is not feasible, form one. Two years ago a walking club was started among students of the University of Pennsylvania, a club which now has over 300 members enrolled. During the college term, walks are taken on Saturdays to places of interest, and culminate in a long walk during the Easter holidays. Many colleges now have clubs of this nature, some of which give credits for walking in lieu of the physical training otherwise required of them. The Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind at Overbrook, Philadelphia, has a walking club for its sightless boys, who find pleasure in the changing scenery and beauties of Nature as they are revealed and explained to them by their seeing leader. During the recent street-car strike in Philadelphia, walking clubs were formed, and many now prefer walking to riding.

Make walking a hobby, and walk it hard. You may be looked upon as being afflicted with brainstorms; but what of it if you get results? One of Philadelphia's most successful merchants was observed every morning by a street-car conductor hiking along at a fast pace many miles from home. Turning one morning to a young man standing beside him, the conductor remarked: "I wonder who that old fool-killer is I see hitting it up every morning!" "Why," exclaimed the youth, "that is Dad. You see, he belongs to a walking club composed of one. Dad is all right, nevertheless--just a bit queer on the subject of walking. He says your Philadelphia trolleys are too slow for him."

A system of walking that has considerable merit is the bent-knee walk, in which the whole sole of the foot is set down flat at the same moment, the feet being pointed straight forward, and not outward. For many years, experiments in regard to this way of marching have been made on a very large scale by the French Army, and the results seem to favor this method. Marey, the French scientist, claims that his apparatus shows that less force, less pressure, is used by the foot in the bent-knee walk than in the ordinary walk. It is also clained that in walking one mile very quickly when the legs are straight, the body is raised more than twice the height that it is raised when the legs are bent. While bent-knee walking may be best, still it will never become popular because, on level ground, it looks ridiculous. It may be the best for marching, it is the best for hill climbing, and it rests one on a long tramp if one changes from the straight-leg to the bent-knee walking.

The correct way to walk is to place the heel on the ground first, and have the foot turn slightly outward. The posture of the body is important while walking. The chest should be thrown out strongly, the abdomen drawn in, the chin drawn in toward the chest, the body erect and leaning slightly forward. A good way by which to tell whether one carries the body in a correct position is to stand with the back against a wall, the head, shoulders, hips, and heels touching it. Another method is to practice balancing a moderately heavy book on the head. Place a soft cushion on the head, as this gives the book more surface to rest upon. Observe the erect figures the Italian women have who carry heavy burdens upon the head. Practice any of these methods for form, and then lean slightly forward.

Never begin a long walk in new shoes or Oxford ties. Procure shoes with heavy soles and light, soft uppers, which lace a trifle above the ankles. In a long walk it is not the heart and lungs that give out first, but the feet. To toughen these, bathe them in a strong solution of salt water. If they are extremely tender, add a little powdered alum and vinegar. Heavy stockings should be worn, and two pairs if the shoes rub the heels. In case of sprain of muscles or tendons, the best treatment is rest and hot applications. In tours lasting several days, put the feet in cold water and rub them well at nighttime. Stop in the middle of the afternoon and rest the feet a few minutes by removing the shoes.

Upon observing the walk of over 1,000 students, the writer found that every one stepped out by placing the heel on the ground first, and that the foot turned slightly outward, but in many instances the carriage and posture of the body were improper. When students on a long tramp are becoming tired, and are walking with seeming difficulty, a college song enlivens, and the pace is consequently quickened. The whistling or humming of a song or march when alone gives a pleasing rhythm to the step. Occasional uphill and downhill walking is easier than all on the level, as different sets of muscles are employed. Walking tours should be conducted not for record breaking but for health. A long walk should be broken by an occasional pause. These rests should be of about five minutes' duration. Experience proves that to sit or lie down makes one more liable to be stiff and tired when one gets up again. A short halt before beginning a steep ascent gives one fresh strength and lowers the respiration. An occasional slow trot sometimes rests one.

Do not hold yourself too rigid as you walk, but swing your arms, go slow at the start and gradually increase the pace to a fast walk, and keep this up, as slow walking tends to tire one. Do not be too ambitious and, in your enthusiasm, begin with a 20- or 25-mile walk. If not accustomed to this form of exercise, begin with one mile a day the first week; two miles a day the second. After the first month, double this distance, and, in the course of two months, you will find yourself walking 8 or 10 miles daily with ease and increased vigor. You will further observe that your digestion has improved. This is due to the influence of powerfully oxygenated blood which causes the intestines to perform their peristltic movements--which are necessary for digestion--with increased energy. Not only are the muscles of the legs developed, but also the muscles of the chest and back are strengthened, due to the swinging of the arms and to deeper breathing. Walking gives one health by increasing the digestion, assimilation, and excretion--in fact, by toning up all the organs of the body.
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Title Annotation:Saturday Evening Post; 80 Years Ago in the Post
Author:Cromie, William J.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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