Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Walkin' with Gandhi

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     Gandhi first developed the habit of walking when he was a student in London. As a student,  he frequently found himself short of funds. In fact, he chose his apartment because it was centrally located, and he could walk to wherever he needed to go, instead of taking the bus. Gandhi found that his long walks kept him both alert and strong. Later, back in India, Gandhi would walk for miles using the rhythm of his footsteps to regulate the rhythm of his breathing and clear his mind. In 1930, Gandhi walked 241 miles in 24 days as a protest against the British salt tax. He was sixty years old.
     Now, you should know that I have long been a proponent of avoiding a formal exercise regimen. I joined a gym once, but it only lasted as long as the free trial offer lasted. I guess for a long time I just lived in denial, believing that as long as I watched what I ate the rest would take care of itself. Since I met Hope six years ago, she has regularly encouraged me to become less sedentary, to exercise regularly, that this would help in maintaining my weight.  Finally, this August, I was ready to take the plunge and add exercise into my daily routine.   Inspired by Gandhi's Salt March I decided that I would try and take a walk every day.
     A quick google search on the "Benefits of Walking" linked me to an article that referenced  a recently published Harvard study. The study revealed that walking at a moderate pace (3 mph) for 3 hours a week, or 30 minutes a day, can help prevent heart disease. The article also went on to state that walking has also been shown to improve circulation, help breathing, combat depression, bolster the immune system, prevent and control diabetes, and help control weight.
  When I first began my walking experiment in mid-August I only had the goal of taking a daily walk; I had no set distance, or time connected with the activity. However, the more I studied Gandhi and his Salt March the more I became transfixed by the distance he covered in such a short amount of time. Starting in September, I mapped out a 2.5 mile route and made it my goal to walk 240 miles. Since September 1st I have managed to walk at least 2.5 miles every day (minus the Wednesday and Thursday of Sky Camp).  To date I have walked 50 miles, only 191 more to reach Dandi.
     At first,  I found myself quite winded at the end. All I could focus on was getting home and plopping myself on the couch, too tired to do anything else. However, after the first week I started to notice a difference. I stopped being winded and tired, and in fact,  I actually felt like I had more energy and focus.  Another thing that I started experimenting with during my walks has been meditating. While I walk I focus on my walking, counting silently the rhythm of my steps (1, 2, 1, 2). This repeated mantra has had a calming effect on my mind, slowing down the endless stream of thoughts and bringing a sense of clarity. 
     All in all, this has been a wonderful experience. It has invigorated not only my body, but my soul as well.

8 comments:

  1. I agree that walking is good for you physically and somewhat mentally. Although, I don't quite understand how walking (even as much as Gandhi did) is a protest to a British salt tax. Is there some information I'm missing that gives the reason why that was an effective type of protest for the situation?

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  2. Okay. Now that I have watched the video of Gandhi's salt march, I think I understand what I was missing. He and all his followers went up against the government, refusing their salt. The then marched to see the governments and were willing to put up their lives for what they saw right. I now fully agree with that method of protest he did.

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  3. I also recently learned about the benefits of walking during my summer health class. The three hours of walking you mentioned or any light exercise for that matter, can reduce the overall chance of death (from any cause). I was so thoroughly impressed with this, I've been trying to get everyone I know to exercise more. Including myself.

    I really like your goal to re-enact Gandi's walk, I hope you continue to be successful with it and I think I may even do the same. I wonder, however, since 2.5 miles no longer seems to be challenge, have you consider walking farther? Getting more exercise would mean more health benefits.

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  4. Lars, while I agree that walking more would bring greater health benefits, I also have to be realistic about my time. The challenge was to introduce daily exercise into my life, and these walks have accomplished that. The next challenge will be to stay committed as we move into Oregon winter.

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  5. That's true longer walks will require more time. A possible solution is jogging, it would allow you to cover more ground in the same amount of time and it would help you stay warm as the Winter sets in. Of course it would also require more energy, but it maybe you could try jogging once a week and see how it works out.

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  6. Exercise in general, walking being the most common because it is easiest to fit in, has always helped me to calm, focus and clear my mind. It gives me a chance to relax as the whole body works together in a well none rhythmic pattern. Although anything is great, I find that strolling out in the fresh air is for satisfying then taking laps around your house. If your can, find a rural hill to hike on and take in the plants, trees and animals that surround you as you walk. If I listen closely I can always hear the sounds of other living beings doing the same sort of thing I am. Living, changing, moving and walking.

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