Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Walking for Good Health

Scenic road to Manang, Annapurna Circuit Nepal 1998.
One of my longest walk - 190km/14days.
 With a variety of exercise activities in today’s modern world – one highly beneficial primal activity that most of us overlooked is – walking. I don’t mean just 2 or 3km-walk inside the mall, something more.

Sometimes due to travelling or time constraints, or simple laziness to go to remote mountains (for my pre-expedition training) – I resolved to pre-historic human activity of long walking. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors walk 10-15km a day to hunt, escape predators or get water – according to some studies. So sometimes, following our paleolithic grandpas – I used walking as part of my so-called pre-climb trainings. As examples, before my 2011-12 Vinson’s climb (Antarctica) – I’ve walked around some parts of Baguio (Benguet/Cordillera) intermittently for 3 days (4-5h each time). Before my 2011 Carstensz trip (Papua) – I’ve walked the mild uphill road of Sta.Rosa-Tagaytay from Nuvali to the junction (~16km) for 3.5hrs. Before Cho Oyu (Tibet) I also walk the Roman highway of Bataan, some 20km (7hrs w/ lunch stop) from the Limay port to Balanga. And of course – the used-to-be-frequent Mt. Samat ‘climb’-walk (on road), and occasional 2hr-walk around Fort Bonifacio (for lack of better opportunities over a busy weekend). There are more but these are some walking highlights. All of these were of course done as part of my weighted training routine (i.e. I carried backpack-weights varying from 15kg to mostly 20kg, and rarely 25-30kg).

In my travels abroad, I also did a lot of ‘tour walking’ in Athens, Barcelona, Cairo, New Delhi, and many more… - the best way to intimately know and experience a new place. Here are more thoughts on why we should consider walking either as part of our lifestyle or training.

1. If you’ve heard of paleolithic lifestyle or primal lifestyle or movement – long walking exercise would be one recommended routine. Also some groups promote pedestrianism vs. riding bus/jeep/car from point-A to B (for health, fitness and energy conservation). According to paleo fitness ‘science’ – we’re designed for long walks but given technology and easy transport opportunities – we do less than what we actually need.

2. Personally – I found it relaxing and allowed good opportunity to simply enjoy what surrounded me – and learned/understood the places intimately more. When I walked the road to Tagaytay – I didn’t even get tired and ‘for the first time’ saw the details of the Manangs cooking and selling maize on the road, kids playing habulan-taya (tag-and-run?) games near the road, malnourished dogs barking at passers-by, neighbours gossiping about recent events, a Kuya unloading fruits from a truck… little details that one may not see or hear when riding/driving a vehicle. Plus – I enjoyed some scenic spots like the pineapple plantation, or just the mountain topography around – much longer than a typical bus/car ride.

3. It allowed me to do some sort of mountaineering training even w/in the urban setting. Not comparable to uphill walk on road-less mountain in terms of fitness benefit, but with schedule and distance constraint – a good add to one’s routine. Carrying a 20kg pack around Metro may sound crazy – and you may get some curious look from strangers – but hey, it’s a good weight training, and helps build patience (i.e. ‘mental training’).

4. Stress buster. If you’re so stress out, instead of puffing a cigarette, or chugging that beer – try walking from your place of work to somewhere. 30min? 1hr even? And stop the social media thing with your smart phones – you may negate the benefits.

5. Disaster preparedness? When the city crumbles, one may need to evacuate to safety and with missing transport conveniences – may need to walk long distances. Disaster happened recently (Yolanda), it will happen again. Are we ready for a long walk? Are we comfortable to walk 10km with 10kg Go-bag?

6. Discover new things. When I walked around Athens, I didn’t even have a map with me and simply stumbled on Zeus temple, quaint stores and restos, old historic structures and the zigzag road leading to the Acropolis. I may have missed out some nice spots if I limited my tour to spots in the guidebook or tourist maps.

It’s cheap to walk, it saves energy (fossil fuel) and beneficial for one’s health and fitness. Next time you feel sluggish to run or bike or play sport – consider submitting to one primal urge, i.e. walking…

Walking ~20km on Roman Highway, Bataan 2005


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