Morning walks: more than just exercise

Yesterday, I took a walk in my neighborhood and nearby downtown to watch the day begin. Not before dawn, but before the normal workday got underway. Morning is a good time to see a city, before cars and their rumbling engines dominate the landscape, before stores are open and bustling, and while only a few people are out on the street.

While I was walking, I thought of the advice in the Rick Steves’ guidebook to France.  “Here, [France] strolling down the street with a big grin on your face and saying hello to strangers is a sign of senility not friendliness (seriously).” This might be good advice for other countries and cities, but is not necessarily a requirement at home.  Even folks walking fast to get to work yesterday made time for a morning smile and greeting.

In contrast to the empty streets around me, stood my neighborhood bakery where people were lining up for coffee and pastries.

a reason to be up early

a reason to get up early

bakery windows

bakery windows

Winter morning walks are completely different experiences from warm weather strolls. The air is crisp and clean. Bird songs are few. Squirrels and dogs are the only four-legged creatures outside. And the dogs are running. They give their city-dwelling owners the push — or rather the pull — they need to exercise early in the day.

Cities with open air farmers’ markets are some of the best places to enjoy mornings. Stall keepers are laying out their wares and arranging them in tidy rows.  Few people are there to disturb the order.


unusual Chinese fruit in Porto market

European cities are excellent places to experience open air markets. In Portugal last fall, we hit the markets early, which allowed us to get close to the produce before real shoppers could crowd us out. And the vibrant colors that called to us from each stall made for a good beginning of the day.

Porto market

Porto market

roostersIn his TED talk on grateful living, Brother David Steindl-Rast suggests that every day we “stop and look” not only through our eyes, but our ears and noses. The morning walk — any walk for that matter — is not just about exercise, but about opening all our senses and taking in the wonderful richness around us.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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10 Responses to Morning walks: more than just exercise

  1. Marilyn Pedersen says:

    Where’s the bakery? Looks fabulous!

  2. emilylainajones says:

    Hello again! That strange pink fruit is a dragon fruit, also called pitaya. They come in two varieties: white flesh and magenta, both with black seeds. The white tastes like a weaker version of kiwi, the red has a bit more flavor a little like a beet. They are actually fruit from a sprawling catus plant, and considered very healthy abet a bit bland after their colorful buildup.

  3. dkzody says:

    I absolutely love to walk. When we lived in San Francisco for a short time I walked every day, all over the city. It was such fun. Back in Fresno, not so much fun. This is a car city. I cannot walk to a grocery store from where we live unless I cross some major thoroughfares, which in the case of Fresno, is very dangerous. Pedestrians are hit (and often killed) on a regular basis here. Sometimes I drive downtown, park my car, and walk in an area of limited traffic. However, the pedestrian mall is slated to be removed for a two-way street. Sigh.

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