Despite these upsides, in an America enraptured by the cultural prosthesis that is the automobile, walking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one’s car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars—those pitiable “vulnerable road users,” as they are called with charitable condescension—do. To decry these facts—to examine, as I will in this series, how Americans might start walking more again— may seem like a hopelessly retrograde, romantic exercise: nostalgia for Thoreau’s woodland ambles. But the need is urgent. The decline of walking has become a full-blown public health nightmare.
And I can attest to the fact that walking saves lives.
When my mother was rushed to hospital after being hit by a cab that jumped the curb and sent her flying through the air, the initial questions were about her name and age and such. When I said she was 66 you could almost hear the gasps followed by the consoling looks. But after they examined her vitals and saw that she wasn’t significantly overweight, she didn’t have diabetes or any of the common signs of living in New Orleans, which has not been known for healthy eating or living, the story changed. When they heard that she used to walk at least 3 miles a day, that she loved to walk, things changed. Had it not been for those walks, it is much more likely that she would not have survived. She had a torn aorta, two broken legs, a shattered shoulder, and countless other fractures. Then four years ago she broke her hip after being given some meds and not clear instructions of their side effects.
Today she’s heading towards 80 and one of the things that bothers her most is that she can’t walk as far as she used to. She loved to walk and misses it. But she tries. She may use a walker. She may have to go slowly. She walks to the store and carries the groceries home, one bag on either side of the walker to balance things out. She may not go as far as she’d like but I’d venture a guess that she walks farther most days than the average person.
Reblogging for nolagrrlnnyc’s wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.