Thursday, August 08, 2013


Twenty years ago I started walking. 

Yes, I had been walking before, but on Monday, 9 August 1993, at 6 a.m., while working in Harare, Zimbabwe, I started out on a walk wearing a pedometer, intent on walking at least 100 km that week and continue to do so every week after, accurately measuring my achievements. It’s a practice that has changed my life. It also possibly saved my life on some crucial occasions in 2008 and 2010 when a perfect state of health was essential to overcoming, and completely healing from, serious medical afflictions, which might otherwise have taken my life. Indeed, leading an active life, and in general adopting lifestyles and eating habits that remain attuned to the conditions under which we historically evolved, has been shown to contribute to good physical and mental health. Walking has, for me, become an important ingredient of the care I take to stay healthy.

Today, 7305 days or 20 years later, I have walked a total of 104,988 km. That’s an average of just over one hundred km per week. When the weather cooperates, as it currently does in southern France, I easily walk weekly distances varying from 150 to 180 km. At other times of the year, or when conditions of work interfere with my walking habits, I may walk less than a hundred km a week. My total distance walked as of today corresponds to more than two and a half times the length of a walk around the earth's equator and it’s more than a quarter of the distance between the earth and the moon. Imagine that during your lifetime you could actually walk to the moon! I have documented, and keep updating, my walking history on a weekly basis on my walking page.

Many people find it difficult to believe that it is possible for ordinary people to do what I have been doing over the past 20 years. The simple truth is that it is not difficult at all once you have made the decision to get going. If you are totally unaccustomed to walking you may want to set yourself a lower standard initially, lower than the one I adopted 20 years ago after I had been walking for several months in a less controlled fashion. You’ll soon discover that you want to improve on your initial target. Just try and experience the benefit.

Pedometers don't cost much. The good ones are surprisingly accurate. The one shown in the picture is what I am currently using. It can be connected via a USB port to a computer, allowing its contents to be downloaded from time to time for the purpose of record keeping and analysis. It's the kind of feedback you need to stay on track.

But who has the time to walk 15 km a day? Well, everyone. It's a matter of priorities. Look, for instance, at how much time one may spend on daily errands while driving around, including ending up in traffic jams and struggling to find a convenient parking spot. Many of the trips we undertake by car are to destinations only a few miles away. Such distances can easily be walked. Or, taking another example, consider the time spent sitting in front of a TV screen, mostly out of habit rather than based on motivated choices. It's my experience of the past 20 years that, all in all, my predilection for walking hasn't cost me a minute. Rather, it is far more likely that I gained years in terms of meaningful life experience. I know no better way than walking to relax the body and give the mind a chance to get fully and creatively engaged.