Walk and be happy

Drew and Matt enjoy a walk in Laguna Beach, California, July 2004

Drew and Matt enjoy a walk in Laguna Beach, California, July 2004

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” Charles Dickens

When I think about it, I’m surprised that this quote came from Charles Dickens.  It sounds more like something we’d hear from Dr. Oz.  I have this idea that during the years Dickens lived, people didn’t have much choice but to walk, unless they were wealthy enough to have horse-drawn carriages.  I also wonder what Dickens and his contemporaries would have considered to be a long walk, or for that matter, what they would have thought of as a long life.  I’m not sure what the average life expectancy was during those years, but Dickens wasn’t much older than I am now when he died.  I wonder if he took his own advice.

In any case, I agree with what he says here. “Steadily and with a purpose” doesn’t necessarily imply going somewhere practical such as the post office or grocery store, although I find it especially satisfying if I can exercise and save gasoline at the same time.  Often, my purpose is to clear my mind, enjoy a cool summer evening, or take some photos.  Since I always seem to be short on time, the “steadily” part takes care of itself.

What are your favorite reasons for walking?  Whatever they are, I hope that health and happiness are among the destinations you reach on foot!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Hi Julia! I agree fully on the benefits of walking. Especially those of us middle-aged and older, who are today Covid-stuck inside most of the day. Not only is it a cheap and easy way to exercise (and safer) — but its good for our brain as well.

    Apparently, exercise improves our cognitive functionality as well. Even a brisk 45 min. walk or so triggers the release of dopamine and epinephrine that are essential for memory formation. And like you’ve said, a quick exercise break can do wonders to clear ones mind. I do this all the time when fogged-up during blog-writing.

    Sometimes a little break, and a quick walk outdoors is all that’s needed to get your creative juices producing once again. — Be Well Julia!

    • Thank you, Wayne. I’m so happy that you too have discovered the joy of walking. I can’t get excited about any other form of exercise, so I’m glad that walking is getting the accolades from health care professionals that it has always deserved. How many activities are so relatively inexpensive, safe and beneficial? Walk on!

  2. I liked this post and the photo of your boys walking together. I walk most mornings. Usually 5 – 6 days a week at sunrise. No one else is out and the air is clean and fresh. I walk to keep my lungs pushing air in and out. They need to be reminded to work hard. I go up hills and usually do between 2-3 miles a day. It’s meditation time. I watch the birds play in the street and bunnies hopping looking for fresh flowers to eat. I can’t do an evening walk unless it’s very cool out. Usually, neighbors will stop me to visit then and I enjoy them but early mornings are my favorite. Hugs to you and yours. Hoping all is well.

    • Hi Marlene, I so love the card and letter I got from you last week! ❤ I'll be answering soon. Your description of your morning walks sounds like mine, except that when I'm at the northern Virginia home, I only do about a mile– just the half mile down to the river and back. In York I do the 2-mile walk that Pasha took me on every day for many years. But never (until recently) have I walked as early as 6:00 a.m. or even earlier, as I've been doing lately. I'm happy to say that I'm well on my way to changing myself into a morning person, finally. (I hope Jeff is smiling down on me from heaven instead of rolling his eyes and asking "why'd it take you so long?" 🙂 ) It all started when my next door neighbors at the NoVa home, whom I adore, started letting their very rambunctious young German Shepherd (whom I also adore) out early and he would BARK, waking me up if I was sleeping. But often, due to insomnia, I was awake anyway. I decided that, rather than be annoyed at the dog barking, I would use it as a means of learning to get up early and then go to bed exhausted by 10 pm or so, which almost unheard of for me. Soon I was actually looking forward to those early morning walks. I love morning for the same reason that I loved staying up late for most of my life: the rest of the world is mostly still, and there is time for reflection. But I've decided that early morning has the edge over late night, because the daylight is coming and the day beckons. Daylight holds its own cure for the blues, I've found. As Dan Fogelberg sang so long ago in his heartbreakingly beautiful song, "…there is really no way to say no to the morning." I wish we could somehow take our walks together, but I'll carry you with me in my heart, and try to imagine walking with you, with the birds and bunnies as companions. I will always say of you that we were twins separated at birth! Sending you giant peripatetic hugs!! 🙂

      • Military life made me a morning person and children insisted on it. Both of mine are night people but I don’t get there. By 10-10:30, I’m fried and probably asleep. I wake at 3-4 no matter what time I go to bed. In winter I walk later but in summer, it’s just after the sun peeks. I’m grateful to still be able to do that. Glad you got the card. Till later, big squishy hugs.

        • Marlene, this morning I was out just before 6:00 am! As I’ve gotten older, I too have noticed that I seem to wake at around the same time no matter when I go to bed. I finally figured out that the answer to giving myself a shot at a better night’s sleep is going to bed earlier. Some days this works better than others, but with the help of my Fitbit Charge HR, I see that most of my deep sleep happens early in the night, and going to bed later than 10 or 10:30 inevitably means less deep sleep. Sweet dreams! 😀

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