Ancient Wisdom on Walking

Walking in the Woods

As a culture, we often think of exercise (and especially walking, jogging, or running) as a very modern idea, something that is new to our scientific world of plenty. I will admit, I am guilty of this reasoning too. However, as the song says “it ain’t necessarily so”.

A while back, I came across a very interesting (and very minor) passage by Aristotle that suggests that even by 350 BCE, urbanites of cities-states such as Athens were already very concerned with calorie burning and the link between exercise and heath was well know. In his book Physics (Book II, Chapter 3) Aristotle argues for four primary ways to understand what a ’cause’ is. One of these is “final cause” meaning to reason or purpose that an event has been done. Here is his example to illustrates what he means:

“Again [cause] in the sense of end or ‘that for the sake of which’ a thing is done, e.g. health is the cause of walking about. (‘Why is he walking about?’ we say. ‘To be healthy’, and, having said that, we think we have assigned the cause.)”

The fact that Aristotle used such a common-sense example to back-up one of his most important philosophical points is highly suggestive that the idea of daily walking increases the likelihood of health was a widely held belief and/or typical activity within this Polis and probably throughout the ancient Greek world.

Bottom Line: If you are so inclined, read the entire Physics….but the real moral is to exercise this ancient concept: walk to stay healthy!