Some thoughts that I liked from the book In praise of walking which a friend bought me for Christmas.

The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau commented that “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs”

Walkers are corralled by planners at crossing points which restrict natural movement, and this is why walkers often end up forging their own paths contrary to engineered paths. These trails and shortcuts are ‘desire paths’ in the words of Andrew Furman, the designer and architect, while the writer Robert Macfarlane calls them ‘free-will ways’. Macfarlane writes that these are the ‘paths and tracks made over time by the wishes and feet of walkers, especially those paths that run contrary to design or planning’

In general, it appears that the bigger and richer the city, and, in particular, the higher the rate of economic growth, the faster the inhabitants walk. In 1974 the psychologists Bornstein and Bornstein measured pedestrian walking speeds in fifteen cities and towns in Europe, Asia and North America. They found the place of life varies with the size of the local population, independent of the particular culture. In general, bigger cities across differing countries and cultures has faster walkers.

the impact of exposure to nature is comparable to other factors affecting individual happiness, including personal income levels, level of education, degree of religiosity, marital status, volunteering and physical attractiveness

Because the evidence suggests that activity in nature has a long-lasting impact on our happiness and well-being, we should be encouraging our populations to regularly, habitually, walk in nature, even if they only have access to city parks

An unappreciated way walking boosts mood is through the pleasure derived from resting after extended physical exertion - in a warm bath, or simply sitting in a comfortable chair

To get the maximum health benefits from walking, speed should be consistently high over a reasonable distance - say consistently over 5 or 5.5 kph, sustained for at least thirty minutes, at least four or five times per week.

A simple, collateral effect of rising and moving is that activity spreads across more distant brain regions - increasing the likelihood that half-thoughts and quarter-ideas, sitting below consciousness, can come together in new combinations.

If we want to encourage freer forms of creating cognition, we need to get people up from their desks, away from their screens, and get the moving.

But the fundamental issue is legitimising, supporting and institutionalising this behaviour while at work. Expecting knowledge workers to generate deep and creative solutions to complex problems while seated in a crowded shared office is unreasonable and self-defeating.

Adopting strategies harnessing the power of mobile cognition will have measurable effects on a worker’s mood and well-being, as well as on their productivity.

Our perception of time passing does not have the consistency of a clock - our psychological units of time are not the same as chronological units of time.

Humans commonly underestimate or overestimate time intervals depending on how we are feeling.

One recent major study of the elderly concluded that those who spend approximately 150 minutes walking per week are more socially active and have a better overall well-being that those who are less active

We need to conceive of walking in cities in its broadest sense - giving EASE (easy, accessible, safe and enjoyable) for the elderly, the young, those who have to use walking sticks, crutches and wheelchairs. As we become an increasingly urban-dwelling species we need to remember this - our cities are for people.

The core lesson of this book is this: walking enhances every aspect of our social, psychological and neural functioning. It is the simple, life-enhancing, health-building prescription we all need, one that we should take in regular doses, large and small, at a good pace, day in, day out, in nature and in our towns and cities. We need to make walking a natural, habitual part of our everyday lives.