Why These Nine Famous Thinkers Walked So Much

WalkingA 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:


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 Sainte Terre,” or the Holy Land. And for Thoreau, walking through nature was a kind of pilgrimage without a destination. His Holy Land was all around him. And as long as he walked, he kept discovering new temples, new places to worship.

John Muir

John Muir was a naturalist who helped preserve Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, and other wild areas from development and private interests. He wasn’t just “a” naturalist. He was the guy who climbed peaks to whoop and howl at vistas, chased waterfalls (take that, TLC), leapt “tirelessly from flower to flower,” and had an entire forest named after him. But here’s the thing about John Muir: he wasn’t whizzing around in his Prius with a “coexist” bumper sticker (nothing against either of those, by the way). He was walking, and hiking, and climbing, and traipsing through the wilds that he considered home.

It wasn’t just that walking inspired his nature writing. It’s that walking was often the only way to access the subject of his writing and passion. In that respect, walking was a utility for Muir.

Nassim Taleb

Taleb’s a contemporary writer, unlike most of these other famous walkers. You can find him trading jabs with critics on Twitter, probably in the last hour. He’s been writing about anti-fragility for many years, about how successful systems and economies and businesses must experience and be able to adequately respond to punctuated, not chronic, stresses and randomness to stay successful and robust. But it wasn’t until he started walking that he realized the same concepts applied to humans. We also need to face intermittent stressors to remain healthy, robust, and anti-fragile, and we require randomness and variation. So, for Taleb, that means some intense strength training every so often, a fair amount of relaxation, and lots and lots of aimless meandering as a foundation.

Patrick Leigh Fermor

I first read about Fermor almost a decade ago in a New Yorker piece describing him as a cross between Indiana Jones, Graham Greene, and James Bond. A British Special Operations officer, he fought in the Cretan resistance during World War 2, going undercover as a mountain shepherd and leading the successful capture of German commander General Heinrich Kreipe. But Fermor was also a serious walker. At the age of 18, after dropping out (or failing) of school and drifting somewhat aimlessly around London, he walked from western Holland clear to Istanbul over the course of a year and change. This walk transformed him from wayward youth to man, soldier, and eventual travel writer. Driving or taking the train wouldn’t have produced the same quality (man or writer), for walking allowed the total saturation of the senses and accumulation of detailed memories that informed his transformation and colored his writing.

Soren Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard had two main pursuits: walking and writing. He wrote through the morning until noon, when he’d walk the streets of Copenhagen, mentally composing paragraphs and working through new ideas. After the walk, he was back to writing (at a standing desk, no less). The success of his thinking depended almost entirely on his walking (emphasis mine):

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.

That just might be the most useful, actionable piece of advice he ever wrote.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Famous composer Ludwig Van Beethoven typically worked from sun-up through mid afternoon, taking several breaks to “[run] out into the open” and work while walking. One biographer described these short walks as a bee swarming out to collect honey. And then, after a large midday meal, Beethoven would take a longer, more vigorous “promenade” lasting the rest of the afternoon. These walks happened regardless of the weather, for they were important for his creativity. He would carry a pen and sheets of music paper in case inspiration struck – which it often did.

As you can see, walking isn’t just putting one foot in front of the other. For some of the greatest minds in history, walking was a way to clear the brain, prevent mental breakdown, extend life, solve – or evade – problems, fully experience the world, beat insomnia, and find life purpose. If it worked for these guys, if it by many accounts made these guys, it’s probably worth a shot. Don’t you think?

Yeah, things are different. We can’t all stroll through a Viennese forest, traipse along the cobblestone streets of 19th century London, or hope to beat the Yosemite Valley crowds by a hundred years. You might have to settle for a suburban sidewalk after work, a trail along a city creek, a crowded hike on the weekend, or even a quick jaunt out of the office to the Starbucks across the street. And that’s fine. What matters is the walking.

I hope this resonates with you. All I know is I definitely feel the need to go for a walk.

Thanks for reading, everyone! How does walking figure into your life, your work, your productivity?

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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160 thoughts on “Why These Nine Famous Thinkers Walked So Much”

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    1. I misread this at first 😉 honestly! I need to think less. Need a think transfer portal (or some better blood-sugar regulation). I am less likely to burn down a shed if I go for a long walk. More likely to send a snotty letter.

    2. Hey don’t forget my favorite, A Einstein. He attributed all of his most notorious ideas to his long walks in the wood with friends and colleagues. Great article, thanks for sharing.

    3. I can’t walk much, no sidewalks, country roads, people drive too fast

  1. I can’t find an online reference but I know Woody Allen would come up with many of his ideas during long walks around Manhattan.

    1. Woody must have been walking through Chinatown when he decided to dump Mia for someone younger…

  2. I love walking. As a very lazy person who abhors most kinds of exercise, my saving grace is a love of walking- only not on a treadmill, it has to be outdoors.
    I am lucky enough to live in the same city as Geoff Thompson- a modern day inspiration and thought leader who also loves to walk. Like Aristotle, he too,often conducts his talks and seminars whilst walking.
    How interesting to find out how deeply walking has inspired and contributed to the output of great minds! Thanks Mark.

    1. +1. I don’t consider myself a lazy person but I don’t like formal exercise programs. Like you, I enjoy walking outside. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing. In fact, walking in bad weather can be part of the pleasure.

      1. Absolutely! In fact a walk in the rain is oftentimes more pleasurable than having the sun beat down upon you. Maybe that’s what I don’t like- formal exercise. I’ll have to think of other more natural and spontaneous forms of movement then…

        1. For me its snow, if it is snowing out I am outside walking around as much as possible. Also i just love walking with my camera , even if i dont get any shots it makes me “see” much better .

  3. My neighbors call me The Barefoot Contessa because I’m always in the streets barefoot (usually chasing down cats), or out in the backyard (talking to neighbors over the fence). I find my best thinking happens when I’m bent over (such as loading the dishwasher, or scrubbing the tub–doing something mindless) or lying down, and I’ve chalked it up to brain circulation.

  4. “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. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” ~Thomas Jefferson

    1. That’s interesting. I don’t think that happens to me. Most of my walks (30 minutes at lunch) are very active in my mind. I work through work problems, plan dinner, think about my life and kids’ schedules. But I think it helps me “get it all out” so I don’t have to keep stewing.

    2. Jefferson also states, in this same quote, to always have your gun with you when you walk. How Primal is that?! Exercise with an element of survival and sport!

  5. I love the sensory experience of the walk, immersing myself in the sights and sounds around me. My husband and I were discussing this the other day. How much life and movement is missed around us because we were plugged in or just plain inattentive to it. We figured attentiveness came with age as we have started to enjoy watching the wonders of a rural Wisconsin night sky, all the various animals, plants, trees. In the young this attentiveness is often expressed through creativity.

  6. “Never trust any thought you have while sitting down.”

    – Friedrich Nietzsche

  7. Great post, but as is so often the case with these kinds of lists — no women.

      1. Cheryl Strayed wrote that book, “Wild,” about her trek up the Pacific Crest Trail. (not comparing her to Aristotle, but just trying to think of women walkers)

    1. Virginia Woolf walked a LOT, despite her image as a frail mentally ill invalid. She’d write in the morning, and in the afternoon would go for about a 7 mile walk, often accompanied by her dog. This is in the biography of her written by her nephew Quentin Bell.

      It is quite possible that her walking enabled her to relax from the intense mental activity of writing and/or allowed her to solve problems she might be having with something she was working on.

      Perhaps Virginia’s love of walking was genetic. Her father, Leslie Stephens, was a famed writer and editor, and also a very notable walker and mountain climber.

      1. She also had a great love of solitude! A solitary wanderer.

        Unfortunately for us it seems she drove herself too far into that solitary mental state of ‘unbeing’- which, although a concept desireable from the Buddhist standpoint- led her to walk into the river, pockets filled with stones..

    2. I see a lot of this – decidedly negative – pointing out of “missing” female references here and – of course – elsewhere in my reading. Has it ever occurred to anyone that most of this has to do with the sex of the writer, and NOT in a prejudice – and certainly not misogynist – way. Rather, simply, that either sex will more often have same-sex heroes and influences as is NATURAL for either sex due to the NATURAL desire to relate to said influence? For instance, the females here are the ones who can instantly recall women who walked. So are they all now fervent feminists and sexists because they have more knowledge of female historical figures? … Certainly not. I am absolutely positive that Mark doesn’t have a sexist, misogynist or prejudice bone in his body… so please, stop inferring that he does. In addition, SOCIETY has done a great job in slanting history toward being male-dominated and so we are exposed to more male figures anyway. Also, purely statistically there ARE more male figures to reference (even if it is because of the aforementioned slant). So again, how is this Mark’s fault, or even responsibility? I applaud you for being here and learning about health and for participating in the discussion. But I try hard to find positivity on the web and would love to continue to do so here on MDA. Let’s keep it positive folks.
      Grok on.

      1. … I see nothing ‘ decidedly negative’ about two people commenting / or proposing on the lack of noted famous women walkers. As a female, I didn’t even notice it in Mark’s post, because walking alone is pleasureable to me irregardless of whatever Greats might model the benefits of it… But, it raises a similar curiosity in me when I see others raise the question. No one is blaming anyone- as you say, it’s more an example of our male-dominated society/ history slanted towards male figures.

        For those out there curious about female walkers:
        Read Rebecca Solnit- such as a Field Guide to Getting Lost. She talks about Virginia Woolf in it; or, more aptly, Wanderlust: A History of Walking 😉

        Or the Zen Abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Sfe, NM, Roshi Joan Halifax- she has a beautiful book/memoir discussing her own personal pilgrimmages in “Fruitful Darkness” which led her to Buddhism. She’s done wonderful chaplaincy work in caring for the dying; and runs an annual nomads medical clinic in high regions of Inner Dolpo, Nepal. A month long trip that averages 10 miles a day, at altitudes 15 to 18k. A wonderful New Yorker piece was recently written about the trip by Solnit.

    3. Hey
      My grandma walked a lot. Not famous for many people, but famous for me!

  8. So funny, I’m usually the last person to think of something like this….but where are the women in the list? Just struck me as odd that there wasn’t even one. I’m not flaming for it, just tipping my head a bit! 🙂 And yes, walking has been a literal life-saver for me. Even in the jungles of Brooklyn…

    1. I think in previous generations, like when Beethoven was alive for instance, it was considered unseemly for a woman to walk alone. She required an escort, so the ability to walk and think without interruption was not allowed or even considered a necessity for a woman. Such a shame.

    2. I had the same thought, Suzanne. Did the men have time to write, think, and walk because someone was cooking their meals and doing their laundry? Clearly women are missing from that historical record.

    3. Not many women have time to walk for hours! Somebody’s got to watch the kids.

      1. Ok, let’s not point out the lack of women in the list (which is unfortunate), then perpetuate stereotypes by blaming the lack on having to watch the kids while men are out walking.

        Neither is true – I’m sure, as others have pointed out, that there are plenty of women who could, and should, have been included in the examples.

        And many men watch the kids – I submit myself as an example, a single father who raised 4 kids, and often used walks or other physical activities as part of the process.

        1. I agree! Having kids is not an excuse for not exercising, especially walk. I walked all the time when my kids were little. No I wasn’t alone with my thoughts, they were strapped into a stroller, but they were for the most part doing their own thinking on walks. And pushing 30-40lbs of kids makes the walk that much more of a challenge.

        2. I don’t doubt that many modern men are like you, but you honestly think in the time of Socrates dads were taking their kids to the park??

        3. Agree! Didn’t point it out to start a debate on how women “can’t” be out walking….just a shake of the head at yet another list of Greats that seems to exclude half the population (I just didn’t expect that here, it was a surprise).

          I think I brought it up as a gentle nudge to myself more than anyone. That there is greatness all around….we just live in a time when the ideas of some are valued more than those of others for completely surface reasons (in art, science, all of it – it’s a strange message). A reminder to ignore the “lists” and live our lives without that message ingrained.

          I am confident we will evolve…maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen.

  9. The perfect day for this post! Where I live, today’s forecast called for, “A Wall of Water” and I was basically hiding in the house. But now I’m inspired and braving the elements! Thanks, Mark!

  10. MR shows much different brain activity pattern after a physical activity as opposed to a resting state. It might be that they were so incredible and fruitful minds because of the incorporated regular activity and not vice versa.

  11. Really enjoyed reading this, cheers Mark.

    I feel so so much better when I’m walking far regularly. Hugely effective way to get out of a slump, yet i still don’t do it nearly enough!

    1. I was just going to comment and say Steve Jobs was famous for his long walks too!

  12. Great piece! I feel inspired to get out there rather than jump on the indoor trainer. Thanks

  13. I’m not normally into literary works, but this post was interesting, Mark. And for some reason once I reached the end of reading the Beethoven section, I realized I had read it as Beeth-oven a la ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.’

  14. thanks for the collection of impressive figures who walked. and note: NONE of them walked with headphones and iPod!

  15. Leo Tolstoy was also a walker. Every morning before writing he would go out and exercise and walk the grounds of his estate. Sometimes if he felt the need for exercise he would work in the fields.

  16. Apparently walking was big with Socrates as well. I cannot remember where I read this, but he used to like to go running barefoot in snow drifts during winter time to stimulate himself.

  17. I don’t walk nearly enough, this has been inspiring. Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote about his own depression:

    “When I was tired and couldn’t concentrate, I used to fall back on an affirmation toward life that took the form of simple walking and deep breathing. I sometimes told myself that I couldn’t do even this – that I was too weak. But I learned that this was the point at which I could not give in without becoming still more depressed.
    So I would set myself a small stint. I would determine to walk a quarter of a mile. And I would concentrate by counting my breathing – say, six steps to each slow, inhalation and four to each exhalation. Having done the quarter-mile, I found that I could go on, maybe a half-mile more. Then another half-mile, and maybe another.
    This was encouraging. The false sense of physical weakness would leave me (this feeling being so characteristic of depressions). The walking and especially the breathing were powerful affirmations toward life and living and away from failure and death. The counting represented a minimum discipline in concentration, to get some rest from the wear and tear of fear and guilt.”

  18. Brilliant and validating article. Walking has always been meditative and calming yet still invigorating to me. After a brief stint with attempting to become a runner, I concluded that walking, while perhaps less glamorous than running, (no PRs and such) is infinitely more beneficial and pleasurable for me.

  19. You left out Charles Darwin who walked around his ‘Sandwalk’, five times, on a daily basis while he thought through his ideas on evolution and natural selection.

  20. Nassim Taleb. Anyone who has not read or heard of him should run, not walk (pun intended), to his book ‘Antifragile’. He is definitely a Paleo/Primal thinker.

  21. Georgia O’Keeffe took walks to find inspiration for her art. Jane Austen and her sisters took long walks together and it gave her inspiration to write.

    1. The historicity of Jesus is still being researched, so historians don’t know that for sure. However, it is a nice possibility.

      1. How could historians know anything for sure that’s from 2,000 years ago and based on textual evidence? The same goes for claims about Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, and on and on.

        As far as we have evidence for it, Jesus took long, meditative walks. There’s little reason to doubt the claim.

        1. Contrary to what you say, there is lot’s of reason to doubt that claim, as well as many (if not most) others about Jesus. The earliest writers (i.e. your textual evidence) not just peddling his formula for eternal life wrote almost 100 years after his death. Hardly a scenario to have confidence in what is known about him.

        2. @John,

          What reasons are there to doubt the claim that Jesus of Nazareth walked a lot? The consensus in historical scholarship on the subject is that there was a Jesus of Nazareth who taught in the area at that time. If he did, he almost certainly walked a lot.

          The earliest writings in the Christian canon probably were written in the AD 50s. That would put them about 25 years after the events. That’s like writing about something that occurred in 1990 nowadays. Not that long after.

      2. Everybody did a lot of walking in those days since there wasn’t much in the way of public transportation. Stands to reason that Jesus did too. Whether He meditated or not can be debated, but He definitely walked on most occasions if He wanted to get from Point A to Point B.

      3. Jesus walked all over. He also fasted and climbed mountains to be alone and talk to God. Get an ancient map and you can track where he walked and map the miles. I am not kidding. Four guys, a previous doctor, two previous fisherman, and a previous tax collector for Rome quit their jobs and walked with him. They recorded their walkings with Jesus.

      1. as he was surely a humble individual I would be he used public transportation as his primal means of locomotion

    2. Phil Hartman played Jesus in a SNL skit where the apostles were trying to throw him a surprise birthday party and he kept guessing all his gifts correctly: “Great, another sandal repair kit”. Comic gold

  22. Sigmund Freud was also known to take a walk every day after lunch.

  23. Nietzsche and Kant were also known for their daily walks. But their routine was almost non-Primal, if we thinking of exercise as a hormetic stressor, because it was about maintaining absolute discipline. But, it can also be the very definition of a Primal lifestyle, because it was a daily low-intensity exercise, which supposedly aided their creative processes.

  24. There is book on walking by Rebecca Solnit, named ‘Wanderlust. A history of walking’, which I found quite interesting

  25. I love walking, but I live in the “hood” and don’t feel safe walking (or riding a bike for that matter). Having to drive somewhere to walk kind of takes the spontaneity out of it.

    1. I lived in a rough area for 6 years. Then we moved. Life is better when you can walk out your door for sure.

  26. I enjoyed this article so much!!

    Please Mark, check it out and please write about the sleep this big people had or left out, you will be surprised!!

    I research it for a while when I realized that all my best work for my university I could do it only in the night and thought if this was the way creativity works…I found some amazing insights!!! And while you are there you could also look at they diet…if you are not doing it already ????

    Please do keep it up, thank you!!!

  27. As for women walkers, how about Jane Goodall? She trekked to places no one (in the western world) had gone before.

  28. Immanuel Kant walked an hour every day. The people of the town said the walks were so regular you could set your clocks to them. Your article makes me think I should walk more.

  29. As a former jogger, current walker, former creative writer I have to say one can never shut off the process. Ideas came whether I wanted them to or not while I was out doing my thing. My best ideas seemed to come when I was out doing my 6 mile thing on a track. The track/ trail is mindless…no curbs or traffic to worry about. Unfortunately when the mindlessness was over and I was back to reality the ideas were gone too???? But they were great ideas. Now I just walk for the health of it.

  30. Just back from my Sisson-inspired walk. When way out there on the trail, the rain started. Pouring. Then huge lighting bolts and rolling thunderclaps. I was alone on the trail under huge trees, with periodic vistas of lightning bolts. The lightning was very frequent and loud and I became worried. I left the trail, hoping that lightning rods on houses would be safer. My shoes were sopping and the road flooded over and water was pouring toward me. At one point I was reminded of hiking Zion’s famous “Narrows” hike (this was sort of a suburban-version). Then I realized I was having a blast. A total blast! I passed another lone pedestrian, she with an umbrella but still sopping, and we both looked at each other and laughed.

  31. It does bother me walking in polluted London though, does the inhaling the pollution outweigh the walking benefits?

  32. Having a dog has made me a walker! Twice a day, rain or shine, Lucy and I walk along a lovely trail that’s only half a block from home. It’s a perfect way to relieve stress, enjoy Nature, meet other dog walkers, and have little adventures. I’ve been thinking of adding a third walk to our day… it’s so much better for me than sitting in front of my computer! And Lucy will never say no to a walk! LOL

  33. Love this article. One of my favorite people Thomas Jefferson emphasizes in many of his writing about the great benefits of walking. I have been getting off the bike more and more to walk in the hills that surround my home. I see so many more miracles of nature this way. Blessings

  34. Thanks for the wonderful Article! I just found the collection amazing. SO delightful and health inspiring articles you make!

    Thank you!!!

    I walk in the forrest for the feeling of outside myself, a meditative feeling and to clear thoughts and just be present, watching mother nature and be in the calm 🙂

  35. Apparently none of the “accomplished and creative” people in history have ever been female. Huh, you learn something new everyday…

  36. Thanks for the reference to Patrick Leigh Fermor! I love his writing and his exploits–and, of course, his walking.

  37. I was surprised that Albert Einstein was not included in this article. He used to walk 10-20 miles a day in the mountains near his home, he would conduct “thought experiments” while he walked.

    Napoleon Hill also walked about 20 miles each day.

  38. I’m a romance novelist and the best plot inspirations or plot repair solutions have come during my weekly walks. I should really try to do it more often!!

  39. Oh, and as a Christian, the best prayer and meditation times are usually when I walk.

  40. Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg were famous for long walks and hiking together while discussing what would become the theory of quantum mechanics. Great minds set free by movement.

  41. Didn’t ‘Johnnie Walker’ say, “Just Keep Walking”? ????

  42. Cool list whether women were included or not.
    I’m a woman & didn’t find the list the least bit offensive.

  43. This is such a timely post and one of two that I received today in my inbox that complement each other nicely. The other post was called: “Thinking Outside the (Classroom) Chair” by Katy Bowman.
    As a mother of four, I can’t believe this never occurred to me:
    “It is a waste of money and time to research the epidemic of poor health in children if we fail to acknowledge the role parents and educators play in cultivating stillness in these young humans. We must challenge the deeply seeded belief that children have to stay in their chair in order to accomplish educational goals or be perceived as well-mannered.”


    “For example, osteoporosis–a disease where bones become less dense (more fragile) and prone to fractures and breaks–is now known as an issue stemming from peak bone mass not achieved in childhood.”

    Heavy stuff. But really, it’s childhood where kids are “trained” to spend SO much time sitting still. Food for thought….


    1. Wow. I had not made that connection. And my kids are now in middle school, so they have tons of homework and have to sit there for hours. I’ve got a kitchen counter and put a gel mat under there so they could do their homework standing up. But still. (ha! no pun intended)

      Thank you for the link.

  44. Steve Jobs loved to walk while talking. People who wished his audience often had to struggle to keep up!

  45. Don’t forget Rousseau. He was a great walker from a young age and wrote, among other things, Reveries of a Solitary Walker.

  46. When I’m working on the computer, which is very often, going out back and walking to this field to just breathe is one of the things that keeps me sane.

  47. The characters in Dickens’s novels also do a lot of walking; in fact, a character in his last complete novel, “Our Mutual Friend,” spends hours walking around London after dark, sometimes all night. I am always amazed when his characters walk from one town to another as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And perhaps it is!

  48. I’m traveling in St Louis this week. 57 degrees and just got back to the hotel after a 4 mile walk around Creve Coeur Lake. Timely read. Nothing better.

  49. At least six out of the nine people on this list suffered from manic depression — Wordsworth, Dickens, Thoreau, Fermor, Kierkegaard, and Beethoven — and Aristotle acknowledged that “no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”. Were they creative because of their mental conditions, or because of their walking habits? Did walking soothe their psyches enough to allow them to create?

  50. The poet Wallace Stevens, who lived much of his adult life in Hartford, Connecticut, was a famous walker. From the website poets.org: “Because he never learned to drive, walking became a central part of his daily life. He walked the two-mile route every day from his West End home to his office in Asylum Hill. He composed poems in his head while walking and once said that he enjoyed matching the words in his head to the rhythm of his steps.”

  51. Surprised you guys are missing the most famous intellectual walker of all,
    Immanuel Kant 🙂

  52. Unfortunately, long walks (4-10 miles, 2-4 hours) are time consuming and hard to fit into a busy day. I am very grateful for my dogs needing their daily walk. As a long time meditator I call our 1 hour forest walk our “mobile meditation” – and it certainly is the time that creativity strikes. I carry a small recorder. Try it, you will be surprised. It doesn’t seem like the same person.

  53. I just saw David Sedaris speak. He is a very good writer, and said he walks 18 miles per day, at a minimum.

  54. C. S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia books and many others, was also a devoted walker, and claimed that many of his best ideas came to him while he walked.

  55. I’m a software developer and therefore sit all day. Me and the guys at work have started taking a 15-min walk both in the morning and afternoon. It helps clear our minds and allows us to get in some “social” time.

  56. “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” – Thomas Jefferson

  57. Hi there, don’t forget the philosopher Immanuel Kant. His daily walks were so regular that people are said to have set their clocks by them. Only 5 ft tall and suffering from ill health most of his life – he was a giant of philosophy.

  58. CS Lewis also remarked on how important his daily walks were if I remember rightly.

  59. I walk therefore I am! (-;

    It’s hard to beat a long walk in the woods, or sauntering in the streets of a foreign or domestic city and the discovery of something new that follows.

    Also, check this article on Patrick Leigh Fermor (published only 6 days ago).


  60. Thanks for the thoughtful & inspiring post. Special kudos for mentioning Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose first installment about his walk across Europe was the best book I read last year (future installments being saved like fine wine). While I don’t recall him addressing walking per se in his book, it was obviously integral to what he experienced, which is described in some of the most beautiful prose written in English during the 20th century.

    I find walking and listening to a book or learning Mandarin (current project) to be real treat. It increases memory and interest. I don’t become nearly so engaged when sitting. (Dishwashing works, however.)

  61. Sorry I do not speak English this is the result of the translator:
    Mary Oliver, American poet born in Ohio in 1935, is known for its clear, poignant observations of the natural world. Your creativity is fed by nature, and Oliver, an avid walker, often finds inspiration when your feet are moving. His poems are full of images that come from his daily walks near her home.

  62. Having just returned from 10 days in Italy (my first trip to Europe) I can attest that both women and men had shapelier calves and buns, even if they looked a bit paunchy and undeveloped in the upper body, so I can only conclude that it’s the walking they take as a necessary fact of life that is responsible.

    Having spent some time in Asia, the similarly dramatic and relative rarity of obesity was refreshing. Americans were not hard to spot. What they must wonder when they see a 50-something wearing a redskins t-shirt stretched over an extra 100 pounds of adipose… And no, they don’t all dream of moving here.

    We’ve painted ourselves into a corner through suburban development and processed food consumption. Reversing those trends takes creativity and commitment. It would be so much easier if our environment demanded that we walk more often, as it does of Europeans and had to carry our groceries home each day. But, let’s do the best with what we have… thanks, Mark, for an inspiring article that I will share.

  63. My next door neighbor also walk after his launch; great!

    Meaning to say that some of you missed the point of the article (Sigmund Freud anyone?)! Which is – talking really long walks for means other than digesting supper.

  64. I have walked about an hour daily for almost a decade. I think about nothing, but I know there are problems and solutions my subconscious will (and does) work out.

  65. some people 21 day fix program reported to the p90 workout police. in New York Brooklyn Sunset Park surrounding, Rows 21 day fix of columns, make people happy. noise waveform without rules,square dance square dance is a dance art make do with whatever is 21 day fix program available: the square dance with great flexibility, the rules of p90 workout the game: 1, 2, the aerobic exercise as the basis, basic technology 21 day fix program and motor skills to cultivate students’ square dance. add beau

  66. A bit off the subject (so don’t read on- fine!),

    but regarding the current ebola freakout/bunglings in our US “healthcare” system, and in regard to Nassim Taleb’s anti fragility: “about how successful systems and economies and businesses must experience and be able to adequately respond to punctuated, not chronic, stresses and randomness to stay successful and robust…”

    -well… it seems like ebola at a Dallas hospital was/is a punctuated stress, and the hospital was woefully unequal the management of the black swan (punctuated stress) of ebola.

    We are so used to chronic stress in our healthcare system that we seem to be asleep at the wheel, and have forgotten that we live on a planet, and that all kinds of critters, etc are doing their own thing, whether we are ready or not.

  67. Thanks sooo much for this, Mark! I have known for years that living longer sorely depend on less sitting, but since I write all day, I keep making excuses. This article, especially the comments of Kierkegaard, is truly the motivation I need. Telling me I might die if I don’t walk is not nearly the motivator that knowing my thinking and creativity will be much, much the better if I do. Thank you!

  68. I love walking and hiking and was recently inspired by the story of Emma Gatewood. Emma Gatewood was the first woman to thru hike the Appalachian Trail at the age of 67 in 1955. And the first person, man or woman, to walk it twice and three times. Even more interesting to me was that she also walked daily and covered many other trails and miles over the following 20+ years. Her fascinating story is in Ben Montgomery’s book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk.

  69. The article mentions “thinkers”, well you left out a fairly decent thinker. Albert Einstein. He used to think while walking his kid in a stroller when in Germany. In later years while at Princeton he was known for one day walking to work in the snow with only his socks on because he was “thinking”.

    I also worked with a computer science prof that claimed he came up with his best research breakthroughs, not at the white board or computer, but when walking in the park.

  70. Don’t forget Thomas Jefferson;1786 Aug. 27. “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”

  71. I enjoyed the article, as usually do when reading/hearing Mark’s work. It would have been nice to see a woman included, so here’s a suggestion: Harriet Tubman. She walked herself to freedom and walked numerous others to freedom as well. She loved being outdoors with her father and other Black men who helped her understand how to navigate the outdoors. Since she was denied scribal literacy, she might not be understood as a “thinker,” but her actions are filled with an incredible depth of theory and knowledge.

  72. This is a wonderful, wonderful post! I am an in home caregiver to a whipsmart woman with cerebral palsy. We get out daily and walk (she rolls in an electric wheelchair) for an hour or more. When it’s rainy we walk to the bus and meander at a chosen destination, enjoying stimulating conversation and scenery all the while. When I get home I take my pooch around the neighborhood for as long as I can manage and clear my head, breathe deep, and leave stress behind. Sometimes I coax my husband to join and we end up talking about important things, bonding over footsteps as we forge a path together.

    Thanks for the important post.

  73. This whole post made me smile, and while I sit here at work with the door open, it’s making me want to get out and walk!!! I’ve made a conscious decision to walk the dogs more, regardless of whether or not the hubs wants to come along, but I think I’m going to go to a park and walk for lunch today! This may have been spurred on by my forgetting my book at home today, that I normally read over lunch outside.

  74. I’ve just discovered your blog and came across this post. it peaked my interested because I am writing about hiking, just today, on my own blog. I love this piece, thank you. Walking is so important, I couldn’t agree more. The benefits for mental and physical wellbeing are obvious, but the creative effects of clearing the mind and absorbing visually the beauty in the surroundings where you walk are also worthwhile. If you do this consciously, mindfully, you can notice so much more about the places you walk….
    As we say in mindfulness, walk with a beginners mind and you will be amazed and what you see, feel, experience

  75. I make it a habit to go for an after dinner walk with my 15 year old son . It gives him time to tell me about his day ,its our bonding time and it keeps us connected . Best part of my day!

  76. I walk all the time everywhere I go since I choose to live car free.. It frees up lots of money for other things and it’s healthy and I enjoy it, lets me think and get exercise.

  77. “First, being shorter (but not necessarily easier) than novels, poems take less actual writing time to produce.”

    The Prelude was unfinished after 60 years.

    Just sayin’.

  78. Were it not for Fermor the average life span, not that means a heck of a lot, but we do like to think we’ll live long productive lives, was 60, with Fermor it was 62. For every achiever in the arts, nature, etc., who did a lot of walking, there are fifty who barely walked or in Hawking’s case, doesn’t walk ever. Look at Thoreau, 47 and bye bye, but some walking is good. I tried five miles a day, I ate lots and lots of veggies, some fruit, and I felt dreadful. I had cut down on butter, eggs, meat, and tried the low protein/meat/fish thing, I thought I would die any minute. I realize Mark recommends more protein and I certainly agree, and Natasha Campbell McBride points out but doesn’t recommend, some people thrive on practically no veggies or fruit or none at all. To even contemplate the idea Harvard Medicine recommends, 9 servings of vegetable and fruits per day makes me think insanity has invaded that sector of Boston, Mass. That’s 4.5 cups of produce. To even think of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, parsley, chard, etc., makes me want to devour a pound of tartare with raw egg yolk, etc. There really is something to listening to one’s body, but many have lost the ability to do so.

  79. While many of those places like London have been romanticized as wonderful places to take a walk, I’m sure Beethoven would have found our “neck of the woods” just as beautiful. Many of us think that we need to travel to romantic destinations, and ignore our own back yard.

  80. I am closest to God when walking. It clears the mind and puts things in perspective.

  81. I’m not a writer by profession, but I am a coauthor for 3 books. Without fail, as soon as I signed the contract, I started major landscaping projects or took on new physical challenges. And by landscaping, I don’t mean gardening like planting flowers or pulling weeds … Instead, I was taking out trees, walls and boulders, and moving things I didn’t think I could lift. Or I’d pick up a new physical hobby that required lots of physical training and lots of time outside, plus commitments to meet trainers at an ungodly hour.

    It was like an involuntary response … I didn’t plan it, it just happened. And it made my publisher nervous, every time. (For my last books, I promised my publisher no major projects until my work was complete, but I lied. Please don’t tell.) The truth is, it was while my body was working that I could think through the ideas and how to make them relevant. I already had a full time job, but on weekends, I’d work physically from morning until it was too dark to see, and only when my body was exhausted could I sit down to write. If I tried to write without the physical labor, I found the words were wasted and they ended up in the recycle bin the next morning.

    I haven’t taken on any writing projects in the past 3 years, but it’s still true tht anytime I need to work through a complex idea or problem, I walk or do something physical while I think. The ideas remain in my head at some level whether I want them there or not, and the physical activity lets me ‘step aside’ while the thought process continues.

    I’m fortunate that my work allows me to leave my desk when I want to and this seems to work in my employer’s best interest as well as mine. It’s very unfortunate that such arrangements are not more common. I wonder how many really great ideas, thoughts and writings are missing because so many of us are tied to a desk and surrounded by walls.

  82. I am grateful each day I no longer have to research health info from multiple sources. I totally trust the primal path. Thanks Mark.

  83. Steve Jobs apparently walked quite a bit as a way to have productive meetings.

  84. I am disappointed that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the Mahatma) is not on this list. He was a prolific walker, and his strategizing brought down the British Empire in India.

  85. Tesla was convinced that walking helped him think clearer. He walked every day.

  86. Good to know we’re in such distinguished company when we walk above average.
    I appreciate that you included the example of Nassim Taleb: walking PLUS periodic intense resistance exercise. (HIIT)
    Walking (aerobic) is brilliant. But it remains incomplete without strength training!
    Thanks, Mark!

  87. It’s funny that I just came across this post. I have always been very big on walking but lately I have really stepped it up. Now I notice people talking about it’s benefits everywhere. I put my headphones in with some classical music and my thoughts on business, family blog posts or whatever just start flowing. I think the classical music works better because I’m not trying to sing along to anything which can occupy my mind and distract me. Great info here Mark. Thanks.

  88. Would love to connect with you sometime to talk about a possible story on the formation and grassroots design of our social business co-op “Walk2Connect” in Colorado. We use the tag #Lifeat3mph. Everything you’ve shared… including your recent articles speaks and gives so much good frame for the broad, big, beautiful, and needed WHY behind it all. Thanks for all your work! ~ Jonathon

  89. I just love this! good to know I am not alone in NEEDING to go for a walk in order to clear my head, prioritise my day and work, and get in touch with myself.