In Praise of Walking by Shane O’Mara

Have you heard anyone say “sitting is the new smoking”? More and more we’re being told to get up and move, to try standing desks, anything to avoid sitting for long periods of our day. You may like this advice, or you may find it annoying or confusing, but the truth is that our bodies are built to move, in an intricate and fascinating system that we take for granted every day. In Praise of Walking, by Irish author Shane O’Mara, is an accessible, wide-ranging, and engaging overview of this issue.

O’Mara starts with an extremely motivating chapter on why walking is good for us to incorporate into our everyday lives, and then dives into the science of walking: how it developed in our species, the mechanics of movement, and what’s going on in your brain while you walk. He even presents the evidence that walking can aid in creativity, problem-solving, and socializing.

It would be easy for a book like this to be a personal memoir of walking and its healing powers, but this book was very evidence-based. Every statement made was supported by historical records and/or scientific studies. O’Mara works hard throughout the book to be transparent about his sources and where his recommendations are coming from, which makes the book as a whole more convincing for me. This did lead to some fairly technical scientific explanations, but he also included regular summaries in everyday language, which was a big help.

I personally love to walk and feel refreshed and renewed by being in nature, so it’s possible I’m biased in this case, but I found O’Mara’s explanations interesting, his evidence compelling, and his recommendations very motivating. Especially for curious readers and lifelong learners, the basic science presented in this book is a great way to learn something new about a practical topic.