I Believe in Walking

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I believe walking is a natural act, far beyond exercise.

While visiting French relatives in March, I twisted my leg skiing and spent the next three weeks limping around Paris. The limping isn’t important to this story. The walking is.

When I returned home, my doctor took a look at my leg. He told me to let it heal itself and then congratulated me on losing fifteen pounds, which was a complete surprise to me.

In Paris, I hadn’t driven a car for three weeks. I had used mass transit or walked to visit cousins and friends. A big incentive to walk in Paris is that everywhere you go there’s something interesting to see. While wandering the streets of Paris, I lost fifteen pounds without thinking about it.

When I came home, I tried to continue this habit by walking daily to the Boalsburg post office, about a quarter of a mile from my home at the Boal Mansion. This walk became a tonic – a time for reflection and to enjoy the weather.

During my reflections I thought of my niece Elizabeth who works with children with autism. Elizabeth uses an approach with the children called “HANDLE.” HANDLE is an acronym for “holistic approach to neuro-development and learning efficiency.” This non-drug approach uses “organized movement activities” to improve neurological function. Some of the activities are as simple as playing patty-cake with the children.

It occurred to me that one simple “movement activity” is walking, something kids today do too little of. I wondered if the steady, natural rhythm of walking could calm a child’s brain patterns as it had my own.

My walks to the post office also showed me another natural by-product of walking; I began running into friends and neighbors and chatting with them about our involvement in various community activities. On a recent walk, I ran into the chair of Boalsburg’s Memorial Day festival, the new owner of Duffy’s Tavern, and the pastor of Zion Lutheran church. Naturally, that made for some interesting street-corner talking.

When I was a Harris Township Supervisor, I advocated what I call “Design for Community.” It would change subdivision regulations to allow residential developments with a central public place. The idea is still under consideration. I hope it works out, because I think this kind of community layout encourages walking and community. I’ve now seen and experienced the good walking outside can do.

Recently, I walked door-to-door in communities from Bellefonte to Boalsburg and from Millheim to Milroy as a candidate for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives.

I’ve come to look forward to walking as both a simple and natural act and as a way to interact socially with my neighbors.

I believe when we walk, our bodies benefit, and so do our souls.

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