Category Archives: exercise; personal health

indoors versus outdoors during the Coronavirus epidemic

 

I recently wrote as an addendum to my post

does cold air kill germs? (thoughts of a fresh air fiend)

does cold air kill germs? (thoughts of a fresh air fiend)

the following:

I live in New York City. Here, and elsewhere — in the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic — people are being urged or ordered to STAY INDOORS.

As a blanket recommendation, this seems to me unwise, medically speaking. Common sense and experience tell us that fresh air and sunlight are inimical to germs and to the spread of disease.

 

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I would like to make a few remarks along these lines.

Last night, I saw a video clip on MSNBC of the governor of some state telling citizens to stay indoors during the Coronavirus epidemic.

She said that people should stay inside and only go out if they had to — for food shopping or to a gas station, say; or a medical appointment.

By coincidence, my wife had an appointment yesterday with a local doctor, Urszula Pustelak, MD, an internal medicine specialist, whom we both like and respect.

Dr. Pustelak practices holistic medicine. She follows her own advice in her daily life. She told my wife that she has been trying to walk as much as she can during the Coronavirus epidemic. She said she thinks that it is ridiculous for people to be confined indoors. She said that people need fresh air and sunshine to stay healthy and that germ or disease transmission is not likely in the open air. (I was not there and am reporting the conversation second hand. I believe my wife said that the doctor made it clear that what she meant was: in the open air, assuming that one keeps a distance from others while walking.)

 

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I have been walking quite a bit during the past couple of weeks — during the period when the Coronavirus epidemic became an emergency — and have been in some respects leading a more healthy life.

On Thursday last week, April 2, I walked for around five hours, probably twelve miles, or more.

Yesterday, Monday, April 6, I woke up not feeling well. I had felt the same on Sunday. It felt like I had the flu. I had a slight cough, was sweating and felt slightly feverish, felt achy, and so on. I Googled Coronavirus symptoms and I didn’t seem to have them (e.g., shortness of breath). Still, I couldn’t help worrying, am I infected? After all, I have been going out fairly often; and I took the subway a couple of times last week.

 

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It was a beautiful spring day. I decided I had to get out for some fresh air. And SUNSHINE. But people have been warning me to be careful: Don’t take the bus or subway. And, I take a bus to Brooklyn, to a point from which it is easy for me to walk to Manhattan.

Why not walk closer to home? Because I wanted to go to one of my favorite places in the City, Battery Park, and to be able to walk along the river, inhaling the fresh air and breezes; and enjoying the sunshine.

I walked for around four and a half hours, twelve or more miles.

When I got home, I drank a lot of water, took a nap which was extremely refreshing, and woke up feeling wonderful. All of my symptoms from the morning had disappeared. No aches; no feeling hot or sweaty. I felt a sensation of wellbeing, of my blood tingling. I felt vigorous and energetic, whereas for the past two days I had felt the opposite.

 

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On my Manhattan walks, I am finding that the City is almost deserted; there are very few people in Midtown or Downtown. I try not to get close to anyone, but of course, one does pass a pedestrian now and then on the sidewalk or on a walkway or path. I try to keep a distance. I do not (unlike most people) wear a mask.

In other words, I am trying to be somewhat careful. But, it has occurred to me, what is the risk that I am going to spread the disease (or catch it) in the open air without being part of a group? — I feel that it is very low.

I don’t go into take out places, say, to get a snack. I don’t eat during my walk. I will stop in a deli to get a bottled water or soft drink.

 

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I am not an epidemiologist or an expert on medicine or health. However, I feel that it is common sense that staying indoors all the time is not healthy under any circumstances — including the present public health crisis.

And that fresh air and sunshine (as well as exercise) are a good prescription for keeping disease at bay — any disease — as well as for physical and mental health.

 

Roger W. Smith

    April 7, 2020

 

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the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday

 

 

 

 

 

another Manhattan jaunt

 

“A City Walk-Just a list of all that is seen in a walk through the streets of Brooklyn and New York and crossing the Ferry.”

— Walt Whitman, idea for a poem (published in Walt Whitman: Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, Volume IV: Notes, edited by Edward F. Grier, New York University Press 1984, pg. 1292)

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On Friday, April 12, I walked from one end of Manhattan to the another — from bottom to top — and another five miles back downtown before getting tired and giving up.

The photos below were taken by me during different stages of my walk, beginning in Battery Park in the early morning, continuing to 218 Street at midday, and ending in the Columbia University neighborhood in the early evening.

I would like to make a few points about walking that have occurred to me from time to time, and which seemed to be confirmed by this long walk of between twenty and twenty-five miles.

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First, contrary to what one might expect, walking, counterintuitively, seems to decrease appetite. I had eaten very lightly the day before; I woke up hungry. I walked about three miles before having a light breakfast at around 8:30 a.m., two and a half hours after I had started.

At around five-thirty, I stopped to eat a late afternoon, early evening lunch/dinner. I felt very hungry. But I quickly got filled up and couldn’t finish.

Secondly, walking seems (as I have stated before) to be a perfect form of exercise which does not unduly tax the body while contributing to wellbeing. I have not walked as much as usual lately — this was true in the winter months. Yet, on Sunday, April 7, I walked something like fifteen or sixteen miles, and on April 12, as noted above, I walked another eight miles or so further than on my previous jaunt. I experienced little tiredness at different stages of my walk, did not need to warm up or feel the need to take breaks.

Without being an expert, I would be inclined to say that we are made for walking, evolutionarily speaking. For most of human existence, until recently, people were accustomed to walk constantly, and it is undoubtable that they walked on average a lot more than we do now.

Thirdly, I have noticed that, when I start walking frequently, my “brother body” (a term used by the sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin, apparently adopting the phrase from words of St. Francis) seems to want more and more of the same. I will wake up a day or two later feeling, I want to do that again. Today!

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2019

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

Battery Park 6-11 a.m. 4-12-2019

Battery Park, 6:11 a.m.

New York Harbor 6-39 a.m. 4-12-2019

New York Harbor viewed from Hudson River Park, 6:39 a.m.

Hudson River Park 8-12 a.m. 4-12-2019

Hudson River Park, 8:12 a.m.

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coffeehouse, Ninth Avenue and 44th Street, 8:51 a.m.

Broadway and 103rd St 10-55 a.m. 4-12-2019

Broadway and 103rd Street, 10:55 a.m.

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Broadway near 155th Street, 11:52 a.m.

Broadway near 195 St 12-48 p.m. 4-12-2019

Broadway near 195th Street, 12:48 p.m.

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Inwood Hill Park, 2:08 p.m.

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Inwood Hil Park, 2:23 p.m.

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218 Street (the last in Manhattan) and Broadway

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Broadway, Inwood, 3:15 p.m.

 

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See also my posts:

 

on walking (and exercise)

on walking (and exercise)

 

Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

Roger’s rules for staying healthy (disregard at your peril!)

 

 

with apologies to Satchel Paige

 

drink lots of water, as much as you can (can you believe my latest doctor told me not to drink too many fluids in the evening?)

don’t smoke; and, by all means, no drugs

drink only a little, or in moderation

eating light is better, but don’t get obsessive about diet

fewer sweets and less sugar are desirable

don’t take ANY meds (including aspirin) unless YOU feel you absolutely have to (and ignore what the docs say about them) — in short, leave your brother body alone

exercise as much as you can, but only if it’s fun for you; KEEP ACTIVE

try to keep the weight off, but don’t obsess over it

DON’T EAT LATE AT NIGHT OR BEFORE BEDTIME (it’s better to go to bed hungry)

allow yourself to get as much sleep as you want

stay away from hospitals (“the patients check in, but they don’t check out”) — they’re bound to make you sick, or sicker

avoid doctors, if you can manage it

try to ignore colds if you can … keep going; you’ll find that once you forget about it, the “illness” will forget about you

don’t let inclement weather stop you from going out … cold air is good for you

don’t listen to the advice of would be doctors (family, friends) and “medical meddlers” — except for mine (!)

above all, AVOID STRESS (this includes worrying about your health)

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2018

writers: walkers

 

In a previous post of mine

“on walking (and exercise)”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/26/on-walking-and-exercise/

 

I wrote that “walking, as is well known, is conducive to thinking and creativity, which is why so many writers and intellectuals have always been walkers.”

Por favor, read on!

 

— Roger W. Smith

 

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CHARLES DICKENS

Dickens was a man of abundant, restless energy. His chief exercise was walking, and his “daily constitutionals,” as he referred to his long walks, could extend as far as twenty to thirty miles each day. He once wrote, “My only comfort is, in Motion,” and told John Forster that “if I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.” — gallery text, “Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas,” exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, November 2017

 

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HENRY DAVID THOREAU

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least–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.

“Walking” (The Atlantic Monthly, June 1862)

 

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WALT WHITMAN

“Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?”

“Song of the Open Road” (1856)

 

I too walked the streets of Manhattan Island, and
bathed in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within
me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they
came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my
bed, they came upon me.

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1860)

 

My joys in the open air—my walks through the Mannahatta

“To My Soul” (1860)

 

I continually enjoy these streets, planned on such a generous scale, stretching far, without stop or turn, giving the eye vistas. I feel freer, larger in them. Not the squeezed limits of Boston, New-York, or even Philadelphia; but royal plenty and nature’s own bounty—American, prairie-like. It is worth writing a book about, this point alone. I often find it silently, curiously making up to me the absence of the ocean tumult of humanity I always enjoyed in New-York. Here, too, is largeness, in another more impalpable form; and I never walk Washington, day or night, without feeling its satisfaction.

In my walks I never cease finding new effects and pictures, and I believe it would continue so if I went rambling around here for fifty years.

Walt Whitman, Letter from Washington, New York Times, October 4, 1863

 

GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-
dazzling; ….
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers,
where I can walk undisturb’d; …
While yet incessantly asking, still I adhere to my city;
Day upon day, and year upon year, O city, walking
your streets, …
Give me faces and streets! give me these phantoms incessant and endless along the trottoirs! …
Give me such shows! give me the streets of Manhattan!
Give me Broadway, with the soldiers marching—give
me the sound of the trumpets and drums! …
Give me the shores and the wharves heavy-fringed
with the black ships! …
People, endless, streaming, with strong voices, passions,
pageants;
Manhattan streets, with their powerful throbs, with the
beating drums, ….
Manhattan crowds with their turbulent musical chorus
—with varied chorus and light of the sparkling
eyes;
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.

“Give Me The Splendid Silent Sun” (1865)

 

NIGHT on the prairies;
The supper is over—the fire on the ground burns
low;
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets;
I walk by myself—I stand and look at the stars,
which I think now I never realized before.

Leaves of Grass (1867)

 

My little dog is stretched out on the rug at full length, snoozing. He hardly lets me go a step without being close at my heels—follows me in my slow walks, & stops or turns just as I do.

letter from Whitman to his friend Pete Doyle, 26–27 March, 1874

 

SKIRTING the river road, (my languid forenoon walk, my rest,)

“The Dalliance of the Eagles” (1880)

 

I came down yesterday amid sousing rain & cloudy weather—but this forenoon it is sunshiny & delightful—I have just returned from a two hours ramble in the old woods—wintry & bare, & yet lots of holly & laurel—& I only wish I could send you some cedary branches thick with the china-blue little plums, so pretty amid the green tufts— … We had a flurry of snow last evening, & it looks wintry enough to-day, but the sun is out, & I take my walks in the woods.

letter from Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 30–31 December 1881

 

Thy windows rich, and huge hotels—thy side-walks wide;
Thou of the endless sliding, mincing, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself—like infinite, teeming,
mocking life!
Thou visor’d, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!

“Broadway” (1888)

 

Sunday, October 21, 1888.

7.20 evening. W. lying on the bed, dressed, I entered very quietly: stood there without a word. He had been dozing. Started up. “Come in! Come in!” After we had shaken hands he described his day: “… he [Whitman] asked: “And you—what have you done with the day?” I had been far in the country on a long walk. I said something about “the joy of going on and on and not getting tired.” This aroused him. “I can fully realize that joy—that untranslatable joy: I have known its meaning to the full. In the old days, long ago, I was fond of taking interminable walks—going on and on, as you say, without a stop or the thought of a stop. It was at that time, in Washington, that I got to know Peter Doyle—a Rebel, a car-driver, a soldier: have you met him here? seen him? talked with him? Ah yes! we would walk together for miles and miles, never sated. Often we would go on for some time without a word, then talk—Pete a rod ahead or I a rod ahead. Washington was then the grandest of all the cities for such strolls. In order to maintain the centrality, identity, authority, of the city, a whole chain of forts, barracks, was put about it and roads leading out to them. It was therefore owing to these facts that our walks were made easy. Oh! the long, long walks, way into the nights!—in the after hours—sometimes lasting till two or three in the morning! The air, the stars, the moon, the water—what a fullness of inspiration they imparted!—what exhilaration! And there were the detours, too—wanderings off into the country out of the beaten path: I remember one place in Maryland in particular to which we would go. How splendid, above all, was the moon—the full moon, the half moon: and then the wonder, the delight, of the silences.” He half sat up in bed as he spoke. “It was a great, a precious, a memorable, experience. To get the ensemble of Leaves of Grass you have got to include such things as these—the walks, Pete’s friendship: yes, such things: they are absolutely necessary to the completion of the story.”

Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Volume 2

 

Tuesday, November 20, 1888.

W. had another letter for me. He picked it up from the accustomed place on the table. “It’s from Rossetti,” he said: ” I’ve been reading it over: William Rossetti: full of wise beautiful things—overflowing with genial winsome good will: you ‘ll feel its treasurable quality.” I sat there and read. He said: “Read it aloud: I can easily enjoy it again.” When I got to the passage describing the walks W. interrupted me: “Oh! that’s so fine—so fine, fine, fine: he brings back my own walks to me: the walks alone: the walks with Pete [Doyle, Whitman’s friend]: the blessed past undying days: they make me hungry, tied up as I am now and for good in a room …

Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Volume 3

 

AH, whispering, something again, unseen,
Where late this heated day thou enterest at my window, door,
Thou, laving, tempering all, cool-freshing, gently vitalizing
Me, old, alone, sick, weak-down, melted-worn with sweat;
Thou, nestling, folding close and firm yet soft, companion better than
talk, book, art,
(Thou hast, O Nature! elements! utterance to my heart beyond the
rest—and this is of them,)
So sweet thy primitive taste to breathe within—thy soothing fingers on
my face and hands,
Thou, messenger-magical strange bringer to body and spirit of me,
(Distances balk’d—occult medicines penetrating me from head to foot.)
I feel the sky, the prairies vast—I feel the mighty northern lakes,
I feel the ocean and the forest—somehow I feel the globe itself swift-
swimming in space;
Thou blown from lips so loved, now gone—haply from endless store,
God sent,
(For thou art spiritual, Godly, most of all known to my sense,)
Minister to speak to me, here and now, what word has never told, and
cannot tell,
Art thou not universal concrete’s distillation? Law’s, all Astronomy’s
last refinement?
Hast thou no soul? Can I not know, identify thee?

“To The Sunset Breeze” (1890)

 

Friday, February 14, 1890

On B[uckwalter]. expressing his pleasure that W. got out of doors, W. said: “I got out yesterday—today it has not been possible. Yesterday’s jaunt—and it was quite a jaunt—was a fine one. The sky, the river, the sun—they are my curatives.”

Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden , Volume 6

 

Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless ocean of
love within him, and freely pour’d it forth,
Who often walk’d lonesome walks thinking of his dear friends, his
lovers, …
wandering hand in hand, they twain
apart from other men,
Who oft as he saunter’d the streets curv’d with his arm the shoulder of his friend, while the arm of his friend rested upon
him also.

“Recorders Ages Hence” (1891)

 

— Roger W. Smith

   originally posted November 2017; updated December 2017

 

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addendum:

Note that Charles Dickens is said to frequently have taken long walks that could extend to twenty to thirty miles a day, and that Henry David Thoreau wrote: “I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that” walking. I wonder if Dickens really did thirty miles that often.

My record for a single day was two separate walks (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) of a combined total length of twenty-four miles. I try to take one very long walk once a week. This walk is usually about twelve miles, though sometimes I do around fifteen or sixteen miles.

However, it is noted in The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford that Dickens went to work in a blacking factory at age twelve to support his family, which was in financial straits and that, after working all day, he would walk home every night, a distance of five miles.

— Roger W. Smith

Edward Hirsch on walking

 

“I love the leisurely amplitude, the spaciousness, of taking a walk, of heading somewhere, anywhere, on foot. I love the sheer adventure of it, of setting out and taking off. You cross a threshold and you’re on your way. Time is suspended. …the rhythm and pace of a walk — the physical activity — can get you going and keep you grounded. It’s a kind of light meditation. … walking seems to bring a different sort of alertness, an associative kind of thinking, a drifting state of mind.

“A walk is a way of entering the body, and also of leaving it. I am both here and there, betwixt and between, strolling along, observing things, thinking of something else. I move in a liminal space. … walking often quickens my thoughts, inducing a flow of ideas.”

— from Edward Hirsch, “ ‘My Pace Provokes My Thoughts’: Poetry and Walking,” The American Poetry Review, March/April 2011

 

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These are precisely my own sentiments. I could have not put it better.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2017

 

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Edward Hirsch, a poet and author, is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The words “my pace provokes my thoughts” are from the French poet and essayist Paul Valéry.

 

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See also my posts

“on walking (and exercise)”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/26/on-walking-and-exercise/

and

“Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise”

Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

 

In the spirit of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I will begin with the conclusion, followed by evidence to prove my point.

Walking is a naturally beneficial form of exercise habitual since human origins. It is perfectly suited to the human body and is a form of physical activity from which it seems personal injury cannot come; hence, one can justly say that it is one hundred percent beneficial.

The body welcomes such exercise. In fact, when it is undertaken, the body seems to be saying, “give me more!” It seems to cure all kinds of nagging (but not serious) physical complaints, discomforts, and ills, such as aches and pains, and actually seems to restore energy as much if not more than depleting it.

 

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I love to walk, as was noted by me in a previous post on this blog:

“on walking (and exercise)”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/03/20/roger-w-smith-on-walking/

I like to think of new places and routes to walk in the City (i.e., New York City, including Manhattan and the “outer boroughs” of Brooklyn and Queens).

I keep finding new places to explore — in Brooklyn, for example. It could be a neighborhood, such as Williamsburg, or a park, such as Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I only found out about recently. I like to call my walks, playfully, “jaunts,” a favorite term used by the poet Walt Whitman.

The other day, while writing a post, “Walt Whitman on Manhattan”

Walt Whitman on Manhattan (plus my own impressions and thoughts)

I noticed that in his poem “Mannahatta,” Whitman describes Manhattan as “an island sixteen miles long.”

Yes, I thought to myself, sixteen miles long, from the southernmost point of Manhattan, Battery Park (which overlooks New York Harbor and from which boats depart regularly for the Statue of Liberty, which can be viewed from the park), to Inwood at the northernmost point of Manhattan.

Then, on Thursday evening (July 20), I saw a documentary film at the Morgan Library in Manhattan: Henry David Thoreau, Surveyor of the Soul, directed by Huey Coleman. In the film, it is noted that when Thoreau first attended a lecture by Ralph Waldo Emerson, he walked seventeen miles from Concord, Massachusetts to Boston to attend.

I had been thinking of taking such a walk myself. If Thoreau can do it, I can, I thought. I would like to see how such a long walk feels.

 

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Yesterday I walked, in around 90 degree weather, from Bowling Green, at the southern tip of Manhattan, to the northernmost point of Manhattan Island, Inwood Hill Park, where the Henry Hudson Bridge and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge link Manhattan to the Bronx.

It took me about ten hours with a couple of pit stops.

I got up in the morning feeling sluggish and achy. I took the subway to Bowling Green, then started walking, taking a few photographs of the harbor and then starting to walk uptown.

I felt sluggish and unsteady on my feet. The heat felt oppressive. I had a pain in my right foot that had persisted for a day or two. But gradually, as my walk and the day progressed, I started feeling better.

At 3:45 p.m., I texted a friend:

have reached 96th St and Broadway

wouldn’t u know it

I seem to have more energy than when I started

my toe is not hurting any more

I feel much less achy and better overall

A couple of hours later, from 155th and Broadway, I texted my friend again, saying “I am getting tired.” I had probably walked over 15 miles already. But, I kept going. It took me over an hour more to reach Inwood Hill Park. The park is entered via Dyckman Street, which is located precisely where West 200th Street would be, were it a numbered street. I walked along the western end of the park, which skirts the Hudson, to the northern end of the park, then back to the subway.

Riding home on the subway, I felt exhausted. I was relieved to get home and after a short while fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up very early after only a few hours of sleep feeling refreshed and very energetic. I haven’t felt so good in a long time. I felt very alert and refreshed. (It is my belief that pleasurable, mentally relaxing exercise such as walking obviates neurasthenia and chronic fatigue.)

 

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Conclusion

I already said it! The body welcomes exercise. It craves it. I can often hear my “brother body” (a term used by Pitirim A. Sorokin, which he undoubtedly got from Saint Francis) telling me, “thank you; give me more.” It is not uncommon after a five to seven mile walk for me to find myself saying to myself, I could do another five miles more. And, I am not a fitness addict or fanatic.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   July 22, 2017

 

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Battery Park

 

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New York Harbor viewed from Battery Park

 

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Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Village

 

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Broadway, Upper Manhattan

 

 

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Inwood Hill Park

 

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Hudson River, late evening, viewed from Inwood Hill Park

 

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Inwood Hill Park, overlooking Hudson River

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northern tip of Inwood Hill Park, overlooking Hudson River and Spuyten Duyvil Bridge

photos by Roger W. Smith

 

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Addendum: On Sunday, August 6, 2017, I reversed myself and walked from the top (northernmost point) of Manhattan Island to the bottom (Battery Park). I found that Manhattan actually ends at Broadway and 218th Street — not at 207th Street, as I had thought.

I did it faster this time. It took me about seven and a half hours.

The weather was cool for August, and I did not experience appreciable fatigue. I felt as if I could have kept going should I have had cause to.

 

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Broadway at 218th Street, 1:34 p.m.; Manhattan’s northern border

 

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Broadway at entrance to Battery Park, 8:44 p.m.; Manhattan’s southern tip; end of my Sunday walk

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

 

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See also: my post on walking and exercise at

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/03/20/roger-w-smith-on-walking/

Walt Whitman’s prescriptions for healthy living

 

Walt Whitman’s health manual, “Manly Health and Training” (1858) has recently been published. It was discovered in 2012 by a graduate student at the University of Houston, Zachary Turpin.

“Manly Health and Training,” written under the pseudonym Mose Velsor, was published in installments in the New York Atlas in 1858. (Van Velsor was the maiden name of Whitman’s mother.)

Whitman’s health manifesto contains advice and musings on topics such as diet, exercise, grooming, alcohol, dancing, sports, and even sex.

“[S]ome of the advice, like the poetry, can often sound particularly modern, while at the same time preserving the quaintness of its age.” (http://www.openculture.com/2016/05/walt-whitmans-unearthed-health-manual-manly-health-training.html)

The following are some quoted passages from the book on topics addressed by Whitman where his views are in accord with my own. I was surprised to find how often this was the case.

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017

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To spring up in the morning with light feelings, and the disposition to raise the voice in some cheerful song—to feel a pleasure in going forth into the open air, and in breathing it—to sit down to your food with a keen relish for it—to pass forth, in business or occupation, among men, without distrusting them, but with a friendly feeling toward all, and finding the same feeling returned to you—to be buoyant in all your limbs and movements by the curious result of perfect digestion, (a feeling as if you could almost fly, you are so light,)—to have perfect command of your arms, legs, &c., able to strike out, if occasion demand, or to walk long distances, or to endure great labor without exhaustion—to have year after year pass on and on, and still the same calm and equable state of all the organs, and of the temper and mentality—no wrenching pains of the nerves or joints—no pangs, returning again and again, through the sensitive head, or any of its parts—no blotched and disfigured complexion—no prematurely lame and halting gait—no tremulous shaking of the hand, unable to carry a glass of water to the mouth without spilling it—no film and bleared-red about the eyes, nor bad taste in the mouth, nor tainted breath from the stomach or gums—none of that dreary, sickening, unmanly lassitude, that, to so many men, fills up and curses what ought to be the best years of their lives, without good works to show for the same—but instead of such a living death, which, (to make a terrible but true confession,) so many lead, uncomfortably realizing, through their middle age, more than the distresses and bleak impressions of death, stretched out year after year, the result of early ignorance, imprudence, and want of wholesome training—instead of that, to find life one long holiday, labor a pleasure, the body a heaven, the earth a paradise, all the commonest habits ministering to delight—and to have this continued year after year, and old age even, when it arrives, bringing no change to the capacity for a high state of manly enjoyment—these are what we would put before you, reader, as a true picture, illustrating the whole drift of our remarks. ….

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Walking, or some form of it, is nature’s great exercise—so far ahead of all others as to make them of no account in comparison. In modern times, and among all classes of people, the cheap and rapid methods of traveling almost everywhere in vogue, have certainly made a sad depreciation in the locomotive powers of the race.
We have elsewhere mentioned the formation of the habit of walking; this is to be one of the main dependencies of the in-door employee. It does not tire, like other exercises—but, with practice, may be continued almost without limit.

 

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OUT-DOORS.

In that word is the great antiseptic—the true medicine of humanity … there is no withstanding the modern requirements of life, which compel myriads of men to pass a great portion of the time employed in confined places, factories and the like; and that, this being accepted, the health and vigor of the body must be carried to a high pitch, and can be. Still, it is to be understood that, as a counterweight to the effects of confined air and employment, much, very much reliance is to be placed on inhaling the air, and in walking, or otherwise gently exercising, as much as possible out-doors.

Few know what virtue there is in the open air. Beyond all charms or medications, it is what renews vitality, and, as much as the nightly sleep, keeps the system from wearing out and stagnating upon itself.

 

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NIGHT-EATING.

A gentle and moderate refreshment at night is admissible enough; and, indeed, if accompanied with the convivial pleasure of friends, the cheerful song, or the excitement of company, and the wholesome stimulus of surrounding good fellowship, is every way to be commended.

But it must be borne in mind that, as a general thing, the stomach needs rest as much as the other parts of the system—as much as the brain, the hands, or the feet. The arrangements of every individual, for his eating, ought to be so prepared, if possible, as to make his appetite always possess keenness and readiness in the morning. There is not a surer sign that things are going wrong than that which is indicated by no want or relish for food, soon after rising, or in the early part of the day.

Portions of heavy food, or large quantities of any kind, taken at evening, or any time during the night, attract an undue amount of the nervous energy to the stomach, and give an overaction to the feelings and powers, which is sure to be followed the next day by more or less bad reactionary consequences; and, if persevered in, must be a strong constitution indeed which does not break down.

 

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The drink we recommend, and– not too much of that, is water only.

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In by far the vast majority of cases, … medicines do a great deal more hurt than good … indeed, they often lay the foundation for a permanent derangement of health, destroy comfort, and shorten life.… to state the matter in plain terms, there can be very little, if any, wholesome effect produced upon almost any case of disease … from the mere taking of some more or less powerful drug into the stomach, to have whatever effect it may produce upon the bowels, blood, nerves, brain, &c. The more powerful it is, the worse it is.

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EARLY RISING.

The habit of rising early is not only of priceless value in itself, as a means toward, and concomitant of health, but is of equal importance from what the habit carries with it, apart from itself. … Summer and winter, he who intends to have his physique in good condition must rise early.

This is an immutable law. It is one of the most important points of thorough training, and is to be relied on as much as anything else.

 

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The game of Base-Ball, now very generally practiced, is one of the very best of out-door exercises; the same may be said of cricket—and, in short, of all games which involve the using of the arms and legs.

does cold air kill germs? (thoughts of a fresh air fiend)

 

I was cleaning out an overload of emails on my computer yesterday and came across a few emails I had forgotten about between a friend of mine and me from last winter.

The gist of our “electronic conversation” was as follows.

 

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My friend said she had a bad cold. The usual symptoms: congestion, ache, cough, lassitude, etc. Plus, blocked sinuses. The blocked sinuses were really bothering her. “I can barely breathe,” she wrote.

She said she was resting, sleeping a lot, drinking a lot of tea with honey, and STAYING INDOORS.

I advised her as follows:

— To get outside. To go for a walk, preferably a long one if she could manage to.

— That I thought fresh air would ease the congestion. “The cold, crisp air will be very good for you. I am certain that you will come back feeling much better.”

— I suggested drinking fresh squeezed orange juice.

My friend purchased nasal spray. I was wondering if it did any good and if perhaps it actually does more harm than good.

My friend wrote me back that, in her opinion, “the cold and wind make it worse.” That WARM air and temperatures are desirable when someone has a cold.

I said that, in my opinion, being confined inside with indoor heat makes a cold worse.

“Fresh air, yes, but not cold,” she replied. “There are a lot of sick people outside at this time of the year. Coughing. Spreads germs!”

 

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It is my opinion, as I wrote to my friend, that cold air KILLS germs. I had a job one winter a long time ago when I was in my twenties. I was outdoors all day in the cold and snow during the winter months. Shoveling snow; doing manual labor. I never had a scintilla of cold or flu-like symptoms all winter.

I said that I didn’t think she would or could catch a cold from others if outdoors. “How would germs spread in the open air?”

I told her that it has been my experience when experiencing symptoms of a cold or cough, that once I go out, the symptoms seem to ease (in the winter months, that is).

“Well,” she said, “if the cold temperature kills germs and viruses, why do humans usually get sick in wintertime?”

I answered that, from my own experience and observations, it seemed that colds develop from:

— constantly alternating between indoors (overheated) and outdoors (cold)

— not staying outdoors long enough to let the cold, fresh air work its beneficial effects

— staying inside most of the time, day and night

— overheated buildings

“The germs love the indoors — the perfect incubator for them. They can’t survive the cold outdoors. It seems whenever I have a cold or cough and get fresh air, I feel better right away.”

 

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My friend thanked me for the advice. “Maybe you’re right,” she said.

I tried to encourage her, drawing upon my own personal philosophy; “FIGHT the cold,” “don’t let it shut you down,” “try to keep active,” “get fresh air.”

“Don’t take my word for it,” I said. I suggested that she Google the topic to see what she would find.

Then, I took it upon myself to Google the topic of fresh air, cold, and germs. And, guess what I found. Most of the “experts” seemed to DISAGREE with me!

A typical entry:

[W]when we breathe in cold air, the blood vessels in our nose may constrict to stop us losing heat. This may prevent white blood cells (the warriors that fight germs) from reaching our mucus membranes and killing any viruses that we inhale, allowing them to slip past our defences unnoticed.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151016-the-real-reason-germs-spread-in-the-winter

(And in The New York Times, it was stated, in an article on the coronavirus epidemic: “It is possible that the Wuhan coronavirus will fade out as weather warms. Many viruses, like flu, measles and norovirus, thrive in cold, dry air.” [italics added] — “Wuhan Coronavirus Looks Increasingly Like a Pandemic, Experts Say,” by Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, February 2, 2020)

 

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I gave up.

But, you know what? I still think I’m right. Fresh air is the best medicine! At all times of the year.

 

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addendum, March 20, 2020

I live in New York City. Here, and elsewhere — in the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic — people are being urged or ordered to STAY INDOORS.

As a blanket recommendation, this seems to me unwise, medically speaking. Common sense and experience tell us that fresh air and sunlight are inimical to germs and to the spread of disease.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017; updated February 2020