Beethoven, Darwin & Me: Why Walking Works

I love finding out how people spend their days, from the routines they set for themselves to what they eat for breakfast, I'm eternally curious about what goes on in the day-to-day lives of others. This is especially true for fellow entrepreneurs/work-from-homers/people who have unconventional schedules. So when I saw this graphic last year detailing the days of some of history's greatest thinkers, I gobbled it right up.

Beyond noticing the copious amount of cigars and coffee consumed by some, the activity that stood out most to me was all the walking these people did. From Beethoven and Freud to Milton and Dickens, nearly every one of these big thinkers took at least one walk per day. Having long been a huge fan of walks, I was pretty pleased to see so many of history's great minds were too.

One of my favorite local walking spots, Somerville's Community Path.

One of my favorite local walking spots, Somerville's Community Path.

It's pretty obvious that walking is a good form of exercise, which can have myriad health implications, but I think the benefits go way beyond that. The New York Times agrees, as you can see here, here, here and here. From lowering your stress levels to helping you ease into aging, walking is probably one of the most positive activities you can incorporate into your day. And if you sit at a computer for hours on end, walking can reduce some of the deleterious effects that come along with that.

Personally, I've been taking walks as part of my workday for about as long as I've been in the working world. I always find it a nice way to escape the office, get some fresh air and re-charge for another round of tasks. Over the years, I've used my walks to brainstorm, clear my mind and have even had some eureka! moments while walking.

An evening walk to Prospect Hill yielded a beautiful view of Boston.

An evening walk to Prospect Hill yielded a beautiful view of Boston.

During different seasons of the year or in life, I've done my walking at different times of the day and for different lengths of time. I'm a morning person, so walking then helps me wake up, savor peaceful mornings and have some time to myself before diving into the day. I've often found lunchtime to be a wonderful time to take a walk, especially when working in an office. It helps me digest my meal, relax my mind and review the morning's work before jumping into afternoon activities. In the evening, I enjoy walking with my husband Mike or by myself if he's not around to wind down, get some fresh air after being inside most of the day and connect about what's going on. 

I walk pretty much year-round, Boston's bitterly cold winters included (properly bundled, of course), and tend to enjoy longer walks. But you needn't get caught up in how often or how long you walk. The key is to get out there and make it a positive part of your day as often as works for you.

I love walking near my parents' house in New Hampshire—it's gorgeous, quiet and smells great.

I love walking near my parents' house in New Hampshireit's gorgeous, quiet and smells great.

Sometimes I listen to a podcast or chat on the phone or with my walking companion, but I also enjoy taking solo walks with no distractions when I want to think things out or just be for a little while. I've recently started taking mindful walks and it's wonderful to just enjoy the moment you're in without worrying about what's been or what will be. I find this especially helpful when I'm extra busy and have a lot on my plate. While it may be more challenging to find the time to walk then, I know it's important to make it a priority to help me me get and stay centered and grounded. 

We live in an age when everyone's trying to optimize and hack and disrupt, but sometimes it's worth looking to an activity that people have been engaging in since always to improve our lives. Walking probably won't help me become one of the greatest minds of our time, but it definitely makes my life better and that's good enough for me.