Sunday, July 5, 2015

Finding Independence in Walking

Today, as part on my take on Independence Day 2015, I thought I would re-run below one of my blogposts about U.S. Presidents who found great physical and mental benefit in regular walking. My own outings with my senior dog Sadie have taken a hit from the harshness of this summer, but Thomas Jefferson's inspirational writings make me look forward to cool, crisp days of autumn (and previews of same during the summer).

In a separate post, I will offer some observations on our family's Fourth of July celebrations. If you prefer, you can find this post about presidential walking on the bloglist to the right.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Good Walk

Thomas Jefferson advocated as author of the Declaration of Independence for the natural rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Later, in his prolific letters to friends and associates, it was clear that he deemed walking to be a worthy pursuit for not only happiness but health -- mental as well as physical.

Consider some of these excerpts from a collection maintained at Monticello, his splendid home in Virginia:

* "If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong. The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is best. A horse gives but a kind of half exercise, and a carriage is no better than a cradle. No one knows, till he tries, how easily a habit of walking is acquired. A person who never walked three miles will in the course of a month become able to walk 15, or 20, without fatigue. I have known some great walkers and had particular accounts of many more; and I never knew or heard of one who was not healthy and long lived. This species of exercise therefore is much to be advised...."

* "Never think of taking a book with you. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise. . . ."

* "I repeat my advice to take a great deal of exercise, and on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality."

* "The loss of the power of taking exercise would be a sore affliction to me. It has been the delight of my retirement to be in constant bodily activity, looking after my affairs. It was never damped as the pleasures of reading are, by the question of cui bono, for what object? . . . ."

The third President of the United States was not the only avid walker to serve in that office. In the mid-20th Century came the Man From Independence, Harry S. Truman, who wore out many a reporter and Secret Service agent on his brisk daily walks. From the Miller Center at Mr. Jefferson's University of Virginia came this account in a reference work about Truman:

"Harry Truman's life in the White House followed a regular routine. Truman usually awoke at 5:00 in the morning, dressed, and took a vigorous one- or two-mile walk (at the Army's 120-steps-per-minute pace) around the White House grounds and neighborhood -- wearing a business suit and tie! After an assassination attempt in 1950, the Secret Service took the President to various undisclosed locations for his daily walk. He then had a rubdown, a shot of bourbon, and a light breakfast. . . ."

My walk with Superdawg today was squeezed into an awfully busy day, so my mind turned to some of the great walkers of American history. We will be taking more looks at great walkers from time to time. Meanwhile, yes, the rubdown and the shot of bourbon do sound good right now.

© Robert G. Holland 2013


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