Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Benefits of Walking

The other day I wrote about how I’ve been walking on a regular basis recently. While the regularity and the tracking are fairly recent, I’m actually not that much of a stranger to walking as an activity. Even back when I was in high school I would often walk all the way home instead of taking the bus-and-jeep commute route I was supposed to take. It didn’t take that much longer, and I often enjoyed the solace (and I got to save a bit of money, even as a child I was quite frugal~). In college, I would regularly walk the couple of kilometers between classes, or from the campus itself to Philcoa. Sometimes, when it was especially hard to commute, I would walk through UP/Teacher’s/Sikatuna Village all the way back to our old home in Kamias. I remember doing this once during the aftermath of a terrible storm when there were no jeeps around to take me home.

Even back then, walking for me was kinda therapeutic. Like I said, I enjoyed the solace. I would often stop at some places and just be at peace for a while. I wrote about this once in an old facebook post:

There’s a place at the corner of East Avenue and BIR Road in Quezon City. When I was young I would walk to that intersection and wait there to catch a jeepney ride that would take me home. It was often easy to get a ride, no more than a couple of minutes wait. But sometimes I wouldn’t flag down a jeep immediately. I would sit there at the base of the lamp post at the corner of East Avenue and BIR Road, and let the noise of the world wash over me for some time. I don’t remember contemplating anything specific while I was there or whether I had worries or was sad. I would just sit there and be peaceful and the world would move around me and I would watch the people and the cars pass by and wonder who they were or where they were going. After a while the trance would break, and I would fall back into the real world and tell myself I had to get home.

Also, a side note, checking Google Maps now, that route’s distance was a measly 3.7km, a couple of km shorter than my average walking routes these days. Back then it felt like I was walking a lot!

When I started working in Ortigas, there wasn’t much opportunity for regular walking. I almost always walked the short distance from the office to Megamall, unless it was raining or insanely hot. When traffic was really bad and it was difficult to get a bus ride or a taxi, I sometimes took the opportunity to walk from Ortigas to Cubao, or vice versa (Distance: somewhere around 5-6km). I often said to myself that someday I would walk the whole 13 or so km home, but I never did get that chance. Occasionally I would get deployed to another country for work, and when I did one of the things I would do during my nights there would be to walk around a lot.

These days, as I’ve mentioned in the other post, I intentionally try to find the time to walk. I don’t always find it, but I do most of the time. It’s an additional way to burn off stress. When I’m feeling angry or frustrated or sad (usually about work-related things), I say to myself, it’s time for a walk. And it helps me think. My mind wanders as I walk, coming up with ideas or solutions to problems or unlocking new thoughts or awakening slumbering areas of my brain or just overall improving my creativity. Walking is also a way of being in the present, leaving behind your worries and anxieties and simply taking in the world. I intentionally don’t pace myself too quickly lest the walk end too soon, although I am often impatient to get back home. I find walking is quite good for developing patience as well.

The philosopher Henry David Thoreau said of walking:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.”

Four hours a day seems excessive of course. I have other things to do. And unlike Thoreau, I don’t have the benefit of having nearby woods or hills or fields to saunter through. Mine is more of an urban jungle. But I’m not much of a naturalist anyway (biology was always my weakest science), and I find there is still much to see as I walk through Metro Manila’s uneven streets. People rushing by. Small businesses I hadn’t noticed before. A large franchise restaurant that’s often empty. A couple quietly holding hands in the dusk. Too many politicians’ posters. The endless traffic. One time a biker almost got run over by a car. He managed to jump off the bike and landed right beside me on the sidewalk. Sometimes I feel I’m not observant enough, I should take more opportunity during these walks to observe more things.

Side note: another extra benefit of all this walking is that my sense of distance has improved. I now generally have a sense of roughly how far a kilometer is. This is why I was able to recognize that Manhattan can’t be 4km from top to bottom in my Spider-Man PS4 review. I walk more than that distance daily!

As you can see, there are many benefits to walking. So, what are you waiting for? Go take a walk!

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