Thoreau on walking


Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walking’ – The Atlantic Monthly, June 1862


I just returned from a morning “ramble” of around two and a half hours. I woke up feeling woolly-headed and like I needed more sleep. As usual, the walk took care of that; my symptoms abated and then went away.

For me, it was not a particularly long walk. Four or five miles is no big deal. I hope I don’t sound like I’m full of myself.

The summer before last (2015), I was averaging four or five hours of walking a day, usually done in two separate walks — morning and afternoon — but I have tapered off lately.

Henry David Thoreau published a famous essay, “Walking,” in The Atlantic Monthly of June 1862. He says:

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least [italics added]–and it is commonly more than that–sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. … When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them–as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon–I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

Thoreau’s essay is posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF file.


— Roger W. Smith

    April 2017



See also: my post on walking and exercise at

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