Walking Faster: Living Longer or Living Less?

walking-fasterI heard about a study the other day that showed the speed people walk is related to the number of years they will live. Faster walkers live longer. If this is true, my father may live forever. He is the man who doesn’t take cabs when we visit New York City. Nor do we ride the subway. We walk. This is no take-your-time-see-the-sights walking; this is man-on-a-mission walking. I thought of him Saturday as I sped by the throngs of tourists on the streets of downtown Asheville, attempting to get to the Fine Arts Theater in time for a movie.

The study came into my thoughts again when I was on my run this morning. The research only examined those over 65, but I wondered if they would find the same statistics across all ages. I took note of the speed of others out on the streets with me. The dog walkers going only as fast as their dogs allowed. The group of women walking more for social activity than exercise. The lone walker with headphones, going at a good clip. And then us runners. Me, who has no desire to decrease the time it takes to run my loop. And then the hard-core folks with their dry-wicking clothes, iPods, and watches that track their every step.

Then I reflected back to the Camino. The experienced hikers flying by me, garnering 40K in a day. The friend who started the same day I did and arrived in Santiago a full week before me. I spoke with him upon our return. He wished he’d stopped to enjoy the walk a little more.

Me, I took my sweet time. I wasn’t going to rise before dark, rush through towns to make it to my destination by noon, fearing if I didn’t then no bed would be available. No, I was going to get up and write, stretch, then head out for some breakfast, then get on the road. I meandered, stopping at lovely vistas to eat an apple and watch pilgrims go by, sometimes finding people I’d met earlier on the Camino. I stopped for café con leches, or just to lay in the grass and stare at the sky. I arrived in towns at 3, or 5, and sometimes 7, figuring that if I was meant to stay in that town a bed would be available.

I was a slow walker on the Camino, but coming back to life in the States, I often revert to my old (fast) ways. This got me to thinking: Maybe fast walkers have to live longer because we don’t take the time to enjoy life as it is happening.

I’ve improved somewhat: I’ve taken to not planning much on my weekends, giving myself ample time to putter and meander or whatever else I feel like doing. I have no desire to live to 100. But at the rate I’m going, it may happen. So I’ll continue to try to slow down. Except when I’m with my dad.

What can you do today to slow down and enjoy life?