2013 Archives

Hemingway, Thoreau, Jefferson and the Virtues of a Good Long Walk


The following ran on the Aug. 29. 2013, edition of the Huffingtonpost. Psychology professor Jasper Smit provided expertise for this story.

September 3, 2013

Solvitur ambulando -- "it is solved by walking." This phrase refers to the 4th-century-B.C. Greek philosopher Diogenes's response to the question of whether motion is real -- he got up and walked. "It is solved by walking." As it turns out, there are many other problems and paradoxes to which walking is the solution. For instance: In our culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, in which we're connected and distracted 24/7 from most things that are truly important in our lives, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder, our well-being and our ability to connect with what we really value? Solvitur ambulando.

In my own life, for almost as long as I can remember, walking has frequently been the solution. When I was a girl growing up in Greece, my favorite poem was "Ithaca" by the Greek poet Cavafy. My sister Agapi and I had the poem memorized long before we could actually understand what it really meant....

Less subjective are the scientific studies that increasingly show the psychological benefits of walking and other forms of exercise to be very tangible. "It's become clear that this is a good intervention, particularly for mild to moderate depression," said Jasper Smits, a psychologist at Southern Methodist University. The results are so clear-cut that Smits and a colleague have written a guidebook for mental health professionals with advice on how to actually prescribe exercise for patients. And there is no page-long list of side effects accompanying this prescription....


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