In Praise of Walking – My new book

I’ve a new book coming out in June 2019, published by The Bodley Head as well as Vintage, all under the PenguinRandomHouse stable. It’s just under a 100k words long (including references). It’s a big story: taking us on our human walking story in evolutionary deep time, through the development of walking, the mechanics of walking, and  how we find our way around in the world. We then discuss walking the city (did you know that the bigger the city, the faster you walk, on average?), through walking and mental health, walking and creativity, and concluding with social walking. I contend that social walking has been underestimated in evolutionary accounts of walking: that our walking evolved in large part for and through social purposes, as well as freeing our hands and freeing our minds. Social walking requires us to be able to synchronise our behaviour with others – requiring a complex neural machinery which can mirror the behaviour of others, and which infer the intent of others from brain systems that evolved originally for other purposes. I conclude with a discussion of how walking in concert (marching, in particular) can be coupled with policy to change our world for the better.

You can preorder the book from the publisher, or from Amazon UK, or Amazon USA.

Here’s my Amazon author’s page

Here’s the blurb:

When we think of what makes us human, one adaptation that is regularly overlooked is our ability to walk, and to walk upright. It’s this skill that enabled us to walk out of Africa and to spread all over the world – to the far distant glaciers of Alaska, and all the way to the sun-baked deserts of Australia. Walking upright gives us all sorts of advantages. It frees our hands and it also frees our minds.

Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara celebrates the full sweep of human walking, from its origins deep in time, through to how the brain and nervous system performs the mechanical magic of walking, to understanding how it can set our thoughts free, all the way to its most social aspects, when we walk together to achieve something – whether it’s a four-ball in golf, a country ramble, or a march to try and change society.

Walking confers a great many benefits for the body and mind; walking helps protect and repair organs that have been subject to stresses and strains; it is good for the gut, helping the passage of food through the intestines. Regular walking also acts as a brake on the aging of our brains, and can, in an important sense, reverse the aging of our brains. Walking is also associated with improved creativity, improved mood, and the general sharpening of our thinking.

We need to start walking again. We, and our societies, will be the better for it.

Author: Shane O'Mara

Neuroscientist

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