New Scientist: ‘’informative and persuasive enough to rouse the most ardent couch potato’
The Times: “Fascinating … O’Mara argues [walking] is intimately connected to our bodies, our brains, and ultimately how we exist as a species”
Sunday Times: “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”
Observer: “Walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier … [O’Mara] knows this not only through personal experience, but from cold, hard data”
Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain: “Full of insights… an accessible and thought-provoking discussion of walking as a key to human success”
Harper’s Bazaar: “A fascinating new book that examines the multitudinous benefits of this form of locomotion”
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.
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.