Last week, in Berlin for The Monocle Guide to Good Business book tour, I walked from our city-centre hotel to Tegel Airport the morning I was due home. I had two hours to kill, so figured it was either that or sit around eating more liverwurst and cheese than strictly necessary before hopping in a cab.
If I had done the latter, it wouldn’t have been worth mentioning: “Last week I got a taxi to an airport” isn’t newsworthy. And therein lies one of the most appealing reasons for walking anywhere: it’s an event. There’s a sense of achievement to be had from navigating your way to a destination under your own steam.
That said, I even enjoy short strolls; all it takes is for someone to so much as hint at going for a walk for my ears to prick up and tail to start wagging. Most lunchtimes I’ll venture out from Midori House and pick a direction in which to wander. And if I need to get anywhere in particular in London, I’ll always walk if I can rather than get the boring old Tube.
You can imagine my despair, then, on discovering that a survey by the UK’s Department for Transport has revealed that people across the country are making fewer trips. Its results cover everything from motorbikes to minibuses but it’s the stats on walking I’m worried about. Last year, on average people made 30 per cent fewer trips on foot than they did in the mid-1990s.
Shocking. But next I felt rather smug when I read that the British Journal of Sports Medicine has decreed that sitting down is bad for your health; with all my thrilling walking adventures I must be in the clear, I reasoned. But apparently a quick burst of exercise doesn’t make up for being parked on your arse all day; you have to reduce the amount of sitting over a sustained period.
But fear not, for I have happened upon a solution to both the chronic trip reduction and excessive bum usage: the Walk’n’talk.
Truth be told, I’ve nicked the idea from acclaimed political TV drama The West Wing. In it, President Bartlet could regularly be seen stalking the corridors with the likes of communications-director Toby Ziegler or press-secretary CJ Cregg. They would be on the way from, say, the Oval Office to the Situation Room, discussing matters of national importance on the move to save time. As it turns out, they were also extending their lives with every step.
So, next time you are called into a meeting, take a presidential approach. Stand up, look your interlocutor in the eye, put a firm hand on his or her shoulder and say, “Let’s walk’n’talk” (American accent optional). If you’ve only got a small office, head out into the street. And even if you haven’t got a meeting to attend, just do circuits of the office mumbling to yourself. Your future – and that of your country – depend on it.
Dan Poole is Monocle’s chief sub editor.