Putting one foot in front of the other, [O' Mara] says, is one of the fundamental human traits (along with, say, talking and cooking) that makes us not just stand up, but stand out in the animal kingdom. And, as he companionably takes us through the latest scientific research on the subject, he argues that this bipedalism of ours, in which we reliably, regularly and rhythmically put one foot in front of the other, may also be vital for human health and happiness ... In Praise of Walking is peppered with insights about everything from 19th-century poets and flâneurs to modern-day experiments with subjects playing video games in fMRI scanners ... uch are the benefits derived from the simple act of walking that O’Mara wants to see it addressed seriously by policymakers. Walking, he says, should be prescribed on the NHS. Urban areas should have their own walking charters, and walking should be designed into our towns and cities as a priority and not as an afterthought.
If it initially sounds hyperbolic to place walking on two legs — something done by emus and flamingos — on a par with talking and using fire, O’Mara’s task is to persuade us otherwise ... Being bipedal allowed our hunter-gatherer ancestors to hold a spear and exhaust the animal they wanted to throw it at — we can’t go as fast as a deer, but thanks to the efficiency of walking on two legs we have a lot more stamina. Our method of locomotion helped with the gathering bit of hunter-gathering too. If you think that the ability to walk upright is simply an arbitrary outcome of evolution, with no consequences except in how we get from A to B, then try going blackberry picking on all fours.
For O’Mara, the answers are practical ... O’Mara’s concerns are more prosaic and hidebound ... O’Mara’s reliance on statistics and scientific data makes his investigation come off as abstract ... The issue with ,em>In Praise of Walking is O’Mara’s assumption that how good an activity may be for us is the most essential measure of its worth. If no one disputes the benefits of walking, I’d argue that they’re more difficult to quantify ... Each stage of the journey...has value on its own terms — which means it is the journeying rather than the arriving that offers the most necessary right of way.