In Praise of Walking Book Summary - In Praise of Walking Book explained in key points
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In Praise of Walking summary

Shane O'Mara

The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us

4.5 (556 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

In Praise of Walking by Shane O'Mara explores the benefits of walking on our brains, bodies, and societies. It provides evidence-backed insights and practical tips to inspire readers to walk more and improve their overall well-being.

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    In Praise of Walking
    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Moving around might seem simple, but it requires brain power.

    In these blinks we’re going to be talking about how humans walk. But first, let’s consider a very different creature: the humble sea squirt.

    In its early stages of development, the sea squirt darts around in rock pools in search of food. To facilitate this movement, the young sea squirt develops one eye, a brain, and a spinal cord.

    But then, one day, the sea squirt undergoes a pretty major transition. It finds a rock, attaches itself to it, and never moves again. Stuck in place, it then eats its brain, eye, and spinal cord. It just doesn’t need them anymore.

    Why are we telling you this? Well, the lesson the sea squirt teaches us is this: if you don’t move around, you might as well eat your brain – literally.

    The key message here is: Moving around might seem simple, but it requires brain power.

    OK, sure. But humans aren’t quite the same as sea squirts! Right? Actually, we might be a little closer than you’d imagine.

    Developmental biologists recently compared the genes of two seemingly different species: the little skate – a type of fish – and the mouse. And it turns out they share many genes related to movement. These shared genes determine their spinal cords, the placement of their limbs or fins, and the nearby muscles and nerves. This research shows that genes relating to walking stretch so far back in evolutionary history that they mostly developed underwater.

    However, although we share so much with our ancestors, human walking is unique. Even our closest relatives, apes, generally use all four limbs. So why did we evolve to be upright? Well, our method of walking on two legs is more efficient. We can cover greater distances and carry stuff as we go – whether it’s children, weapons, or food.

    Yet as efficient as it might be, walking on two legs is hard. When they’re learning, toddlers take an average of 2,368 steps – and 17 falls – per hour. And robots have yet to fully excel at human-style walking.

    We have our brains to thank for mastering this complex task. One thing the brain is particularly good at is staying balanced. It does this via inertial guidance, which means it’s continuously calculating to calibrate our position. Trace the line from the corner of your eye to your ear canal; your brain will always try to keep this line parallel with the ground.

    Not every aspect of walking is controlled by the brain, though. The spinal cord handles the central pattern generators that control the rhythmic patterns we need for breathing, the beating of the heart, and walking.

    The spinal cord, you’ll recall, is another thing the adult sea squirt eats once it’s secured to its rock. We humans, though, make the most of our ability to move around. You could say walking rocks!

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    What is In Praise of Walking about?

    In Praise of Walking (2019) examines the science behind one of the basic skills that defines us as human beings. By walking more, you can boost your physical and mental health – and become more creative and social.

    In Praise of Walking Review

    In Praise of Walking (2019) explores the myriad benefits and wonders of walking, presenting a compelling case for why it should be an integral part of our lives. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • With scientific research and compelling examples, it reveals how walking can improve our physical health, mental well-being, and even our creativity.
    • The book delves into the historical and cultural significance of walking, highlighting its role in shaping societies and fostering connection with our environment.
    • From discussing the impact of urban design to the transformative power of hiking, the book presents a persuasive and comprehensive exploration of our relationship with walking.

    Who should read In Praise of Walking?

    • Science fans keen to learn about the body and the mind
    • Walking enthusiasts
    • People looking for a reason to do more exercise

    About the Author

    Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College Dublin. He is the Principal Investigator at the college’s Institute of Neuroscience and is also a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. His previous books are Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation and A Brain for Business – A Brain for Life.

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    In Praise of Walking FAQs 

    What is the main message of In Praise of Walking?

    In Praise of Walking emphasizes the remarkable benefits of walking for our physical, mental, and social well-being.

    How long does it take to read In Praise of Walking?

    The reading time for In Praise of Walking varies, but to get the key insights, you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is In Praise of Walking a good book? Is it worth reading?

    In Praise of Walking is a compelling book that sheds light on the underestimated power of walking. It's definitely worth reading for anyone interested in improving their health and overall well-being.

    Who is the author of In Praise of Walking?

    Shane O'Mara is the author of In Praise of Walking.

    What to read after In Praise of Walking?

    If you're wondering what to read next after In Praise of Walking, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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