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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 21, 2009

WALKING

JAMA. 2009;301(3):335. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.966

An item in our London letter this week again calls attention to a form of exercise as healthful as, in this country, it is uncommon. Surgeon-Major Hinton, who enjoys the distinction of being the oldest member of the Royal College of Surgeons, in his ninety-fifth year is reported as “walking for pleasure five miles or more a day.” How many Americans—physicians or laymen—of even one-third the age of this veteran surgeon walk half of that distance daily? In the country the buggy, in the city the ubiquitous street car, and in both the ever-increasing number of automobiles, all operate to make us a nation of riders rather than of walkers. While within the past year walking has been taken up as a passing fad, pedestrianism as a recreation is practically unknown in this country. So much is this so that a man seen walking along a country road is mentally estimated as either a book agent or a tramp—the estimate varying according to his general appearance. Thus a vicious circle is established and the thought of being eccentric operates to make walking unpopular. Yet from a hygienic standpoint there is probably no healthier or more invigorating form of exercise. The various ingenious substitutes in the form of calisthenics are, as is the case with all substitutes, a poor excuse for the real article. Horseback riding, which seems to be popular among a certain class, is probably equal to walking as a form of exercise. But horseback riding is possible only for the few, certainly not for the average city dweller. Walking is possible for all, and a brisk four- or five-mile walk, taken not as a duty but as a recreation, is a physical and mental tonic of no mean value. Did it cost money instead of involving effort it would be more popular.

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