Why These Nine Famous Thinkers Walked So Much

A couple weeks back, I wrote about how integral walking is to being human . And over the years I’ve written about the health benefits of walking , how and why you should walk barefoot , and even a definitive guide on the subject . In other words, I’m a huge proponent of walking and I think just about everyone who’s able should do more of it . But I’m not the only one that finds daily walks critical to health, energy, mental clarity and, ultimately, at least in some part, my success as a human being. Many of the most accomplished and creative people throughout history have also found walking to be an integral part of their daily routines and key to their success as artists, creators, writers, musicians, thinkers, and human beings.

Let’s look at how some of these folks used walking to improve their work:

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Aristotle

Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, empiricist, and pupil to Plato, conducted his lectures while walking the grounds of his school in Athens. His followers (who quite literally followed him as he walked) were even known as the peripatetics – Greek for meandering or walking about. Ah, to witness one of history’s greatest minds utilizing the  cognitive benefits of moving while thinking  must have been incredible.

William Wordsworth

The poet with the most fitting surname ever, William Wordsworth walked nearly 175 thousand miles throughout his life  while maintaining a prolific writing career. He managed these two seemingly opposing habits for two reasons. First, being shorter (but not necessarily easier) than novels, poems take less actual writing time to produce. Second, Wordsworth’s walking was writing, in a way. As he saw it, the act of walking was “indivisible” from the act of writing poetry. Both were rhythmic, both employed meter. He needed to walk in order to write.

Man, I feel like I’m in English lit class all over again.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, author, social commentator, walker? Yes. After writing from 9 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon, he would go for a long walk. A 20- or 30-miler was routine for him. When Dickens couldn’t sleep at night – which was often – he’d crawl London’s streets until dawn. Dickens walked so much that his friends worried, figuring he had a mania for walking that bordered on pathology. But clearly, the walking worked; Dickens was prolific, writing more than a dozen major and well-regarded novels, several short story collections, a few plays, and even some non-fiction books.

According to the man himself , if he couldn’t walk “far and fast,” he would “explode and perish” from the psychological burden of remaining still. I bet a treadmill desk would have blown his mind (and brought us even more works). Actually, it might not have worked for him. The walking was so important for Dickens because it meant he wasn’t writing, the act of which he found quite miserable and difficult. Walking was relief. Without the walking, he’d probably have gone mad.

Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau was a famous saunterer. In the aptly titled essay “ Walking ,” he comments on the etymology of the word “saunter,” noting that it comes from “the idle people who roved about the country… under the pretense of going à la … Continue reading Why These Nine Famous Thinkers Walked So Much