The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us
A captivating exploration of the science of a skill that is uniquely human: how we walk. And a hymn to its many benefits for our mental and physical health, and for our society.
Walking upright on two feet is a uniquely human skill. It defines us as a species.
It enabled us to walk out of Africa and to spread as far as Alaska and Australia. It freed our hands and freed our minds. We put one foot in front of the other without thinking – yet how many of us know how we do that, or appreciate the advantages it gives us? In this hymn to walking, neuroscientist Shane O’Mara invites us to marvel at the benefits it confers on our bodies and minds.
In Praise of Walking celebrates this miraculous ability. Incredibly, it is a skill that has its evolutionary origins millions of years ago, under the sea. And the latest research is only now revealing how the brain and nervous system performs the mechanical magic of balancing, navigating a crowded city, or running our inner GPS system.
Walking is good for our muscles and posture; it helps to protect and repair organs, and can slow or turn back the ageing of our brains. With our minds in motion we think more creatively, our mood improves and stress levels fall. Walking together to achieve a shared purpose is also a social glue that has contributed to our survival as a species.
As our lives become increasingly sedentary, we risk all this. We must start walking again, whether it’s up a mountain, down to the park, or simply to school and work. We, and our societies, will be better for it.
“Fascinating ... O’Mara argues [walking] is intimately connected to our bodies, our brains, and ultimately how we exist as a species”
“Convincing and compelling ... In Praise of Walking is peppered with insights about everything from 19th-century poets and flâneurs to modern-day experiments with subjects playing video games in fMRI scanners”
“Walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier ... [O'Mara] knows this not only through personal experience, but from cold, hard data”
“Full of insights… an accessible and thought-provoking discussion of walking as a key to human success”
Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain, Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain
“A fascinating new book that examines the multitudinous benefits of this form of locomotion”
“In Praise of Walking is both informative and persuasive enough to rouse the most ardent couch potato – perhaps saving humanity before our lifestyle consumes our brains completely”
Jonathon Keats, New Scientist
“Like a poem to walking… [and] the science that might help convince planners to prioritise walking as a means of getting around”
Lucy Whetman, UK Press Syndication
“A book that will leave you itching to go out for a good old-fashioned stroll”
Mail on Sunday