Stress, overweight, insomnia: to help us better manage the ailments of everyday life, walking, a powerful stimulant for the body and mind, is proving to be an ally of choice. What if we (re)put ourselves in it?
Perhaps it is because we were deprived of our freedom last spring that the desire to walk took us back. Because we have never seen so many people running and walking with their noses in the air in the cities and the countryside as during the authorized hour of exit.
“The prohibition has given back value to walking”, says sociologist David Le Breton, author of the very inspiring Walk life. A quiet art of happiness1. The first post-lockdown weekend was also accompanied by a rush to parks, woods, nature trails. The phenomenon has not subsided, the summer having allowed tasting a little more to the pleasures of hiking.
Let’s bet that new walkers are venu.es swell the ranks of the more than sixteen million followers in France2. Remains to stay the course and continue to line up the kilometers once the sunny days are over so as not to fall back into the traps of our sedentary companies.
“Walking has been sacrificed on the altar of the automobile and technologies that aim to suppress effort. It is surprising to see how, as soon as you set foot on an escalator or a treadmill, you resign, you stop,” recalls David Le Breton.
The result, as we know, is traffic jams in cities and all the health problems that emerge with sedentary lifestyles: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases.
An availability that stimulates inspiration
We have so much to gain from getting our body going: we maintain the tone of our muscles, the proper functioning of our organs, we even stimulate our brain. Our body is made for movement and “walking represents the most natural activity. (…) For a purely medical purpose, running is not superior to walking”, writes Professor Gilbert Deray3.
Let’s start with reintroducing urban walking, functional, the one that allows us to move in our daily journeys. “It is essential, however, it is practiced the mind occupied by the worries of the job, the shopping list, the timing to respect, it does not have not the same benefits as a walk where you really stroll”, stresses David Le Breton. The hour on a gym treadmill to compensate for sedentary days has the same utilitarian effect, but it deprives us of many other benefits.
Even in the city, why not allow yourself from time to time to go to discover a neighborhood, without any real purpose if not that of being surprised? If you have the opportunity, the ideal is to go immerse yourself for a few hours in the middle of nature. “By getting lost in the paths or the woods, we find the sensoriality of the world, the smells, the sounds. We want to touch what is around us. We go back to the earth element and we feel alive”, assures the sociologist.
When one walks without utilitarian purpose, the mind is freed from what takes it, it finds a form of availability that stimulates inspiration. By thinking informally about your problems, this is where you often manage to solve them. To fully live this form of meditation, which does not require any learning, only one condition: to advance in silence, with no music or podcast in the ears.
Reconnecting with your vital needs
By leaving for a longer trip, of several days or several weeks, at his own pace, one pushes even further the experience of reconnecting to the world and oneself. The healing power of walking then operates to the maximum.
“After only a few days, the benefits are immense,” says the author. Some people really improve their physical condition, for example in the case of fibromyalgia. People in the middle of depression regain their taste of life. When you are a little depressed, the effect is even more radical.”
This is due to: the benefits of movement on the body, by this clarity of mind that arises but also because one takes one’s time, a rare thing, and reconnects with one’s vital needs. During a hike, we drink when we are thirsty, we eat when we are hungry, and not because it is time or we are stressed. We rest when we are tired, we find quality sleep. We also push ourselves a little, we challenge our limits, with, at the end of the road, the satisfaction of having surpassed ourselves.
Many people choose to hike to do something strong in their lives, to get back on their feet after a separation, a mourning, a long illness. Walking acts as a repair. There are even rehabilitation programs for juvenile delinquents that offer walking abroad without a telephone.
By experiencing silence, movement, simple conversation with other walkers, they regain essential self-esteem. If hiking is now a huge success, it may also be because it allows you to get out of the material world and permanently consume. “By walking, we find the price of things without price”, enthuses David Le Breton. Walking costs nothing and you get out of it richer and richer.
1. Ed. Metailié. 2. Barometer of sports and leisure of nature 2016. 3. Choose your genetic destiny, ed. Fayard.
3 readings to start on the right foot: On the Black Paths, by Sylvain Tesson, ed. Gallimard. Long walk. Volume 3: The wind of the steppes, by Bernard Ollivier, ed. Phébus. Immortal hike. Compostela despite myself, by Jean-Christophe Rufin, ed. Folio Gallimard.