Learn from Our Ancestors: Walking Daily Improves Health

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | October 12th, 2009 | 6 Comments
topic: Fitness, Green Living, Health & Wellness, Yoga


A few weeks ago, I taught my Core Immersion Training at the Century City Equinox in Los Angeles, Calif. Each day, we valet parked our cars before entering the club. Those who live outside of Los Angeles may have to re-read the prior sentence: Yes, we VALET PARKED our cars to go to the gym, as do thousands of other Angelenos all around the city, where valet parking is an unfortunate fact of life in a city where the car is king, and vast distances separate us from getting here to there.

How I miss the days of my childhood in Santa Fe, N.M, where I walked nearly a mile each way to elementary school. And then when we moved into a rural solar community, I walked a mile in the snow just to get to the bus stop for junior high. But I digress …

Let’s revisit the training.

Walking: No. 1 path to health?

On day three of our training, I had Ellen Heed, my favorite anatomy teacher, come in to lecture about the pelvis. She astonished my trainees by telling us that our nomadic ancestors walked dozens of miles daily as they roamed the earth, accumulating thousands of miles a year on their hips and feet. Their roaming ways were a natural suppressant for heart disease, depression, osteoporosis and diabetes, and kept the excess weight off according to the Mayo Clinic. Even Oprah Winfrey endorses it: “I’ve been through every diet under the sun, and I can tell you that getting up, getting out and walking is always the first goal.”

As I waited for my car that evening, my valet, a friendly Ethiopian named Adunde, asked me what I was teaching. After I explained Yoga Tune Up® to him, he said, “That’s so good — exercise, stretching, yoga, movement. It’s so good! Where I grew up in Ethiopia, I had to walk four hours each day to get to school and then four hours back home. I was SO strong! Now, all this,” he grabbed his arms and chest with a frown. “It’s all soft, no energy, it’s all changed!” And with that, he dashed off to retrieve another car.

As I drove home, I calculated that it would probably take me four hours to cover the 12 Los Angeles miles between my home and the gym: up a long steep mountain and then down a canyon into the flats. Adunde might be able to make it in three. In the meantime, my car was guzzling gas, I was immobile in a “bucket seat,” and the necessity of modern living seemed like a cruel joke that was designed to keep us struggling to maintain health and fitness. So I wonder, if we all walked more, could we solve our national health care crisis? It’s the cheapest form of exercise around. Some would argue you don’t even need shoes!

Adopt one walk day a week

I challenge all readers to adopt one walk day a week, where you stroll locally around your neighborhood, walk to your market or your bank, walk the kids to school. So it may take a little longer, but think of the contribution you’ll be making to your health, the low carbon output to the earth, and of course, honoring the journey of your ancestors.

Let me know how it goes! And don’t forget to keep your feet and ankles supple and healthy with exercises designed especially for your feet. Be my guest, and try my new Yoga Tune Up® QuickFix video for the feet and ankles for FREE!

Practice yoga with Jill Miller on GaiamTV.com.


  1. I totally agree! I gained 15 lbs. when I went from working in downtown Cleveland, where I walked all over the place, to semi-suburban Atlanta where everything is too far away to walk to. 14 years later, I still struggle to re-incorporate the amount of walking I used to do. I think I could do the one day of walking thing. Just 2.5 miles to my bank, grocery, and a Starbucks. It’s a great suggestion! Thanks!

    Kristen Leigh | October 12th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Great article. Very motivating!

    Bonnie | October 12th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. I couldn’t agree more… I feel blessed to be in walking/biking distance of all of my work, and when I get the time to walk the distance, (instead of biking) I feel so much more present, oxygenated and alive. Thank you, Jill…

    mercedes | October 13th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. [...] in your system. Even the most advanced medicine puts forth eight hours of sleep and a brisk daily walk to keep most of the continent healthy. Even mustard poultices still have their dedicated [...]

  5. [...] my aunt’s house. She lives in a beautiful, secluded neighborhood, and I often invite her to take a walk with me — she has not yet [...]

  6. [...] 1. You need to walk every day. [...]

Post a Comment

If you want to show your picture with your comment, go get a gravatar!