For so many residents of our senior living retirement community here at Southgate at Shrewsbury, walking through the lovely Southgate Park is an immensely enjoyable activity. In addition to the joy it brings, it also conveys excellent health benefits.
Walking remains one of the best forms of exercise for maintaining our overall health, particularly when it comes to agility, balance and cardiovascular conditioning. In fact, studies have shown that, for people of all ages, walking can do everything from help lower blood sugar and ease joint pain to boost immune function, improve mood and increase energy levels.
At Southgate at Shrewsbury retirement community, walking is consistently one of the most popular activities among residents. Much of the appeal is attributable to the safety, comfort and beauty of our campus and facilities; both the interior areas (e.g., broad, carpeted hallways; walkway bridge; atrium) and the exterior areas (e.g., sprawling 30-acre park) are perfectly suited for taking leisurely strolls.
Of course, it also helps that walking doesn’t require any special exercise equipment and can be done at nearly any time of day.
All this notwithstanding, if you still need some inspiration to put on your walking shoes, no better source can be found than a brief life history of Edward Payson Weston, America’s so-called “Greatest Pedestrian.”
A Life on the Road
A true original (and natural showman!), Mr. Weston was born in 1839 in Providence, Rhode Island. His illustrious career began in 1861 at 22 years of age, when he boasted to a friend that, if Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election, he would walk the nearly 500 miles from Boston to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration. Upon losing the bet, Mr. Weston made the trek accompanied by two men in a carrier, who not only bore witness to his accomplishment, but served to distribute advertising flyers in a gratuitous display of self-promotion. (His contemporary, P. T. Barnum, was undoubtedly a bit jealous—if not envious—of Mr. Weston’s innate public-relations talents!)
In addition to generating newspaper coverage and prompting a congratulatory handshake from the newly inaugurated president, this impressive stunt of perambulation (more commonly referred to as “walking”) set Mr. Weston’s path in life: He realized he could make a career as a pedestrian. Turing professional at age 28 and dubbing himself “Weston the Pedestrian,” he made his professional debut in 1867 by hiking 1,300 miles from Portland, Maine, to Chicago.
Over the years, the trips (and the miles) added up … quickly. (Frequently on his journeys he would give lectures to crowds on the health benefits of walking; he was truly a man ahead of his time!)
A few examples of his “feet feats” will suffice here:
- In 1869 he walked 1,058 miles through snow-covered New England in 30 days
- In 1871, he walked 200 miles—backwards!—around St. Louis, Missouri, in 41 hours
- Starting in the mid-1870s, Mr. Weston spent eight years touring Europe; his victories included beating England’s racewalking champion to a 24-hour, 115-mile trek in 1876, and defeating the British champion “Blower” Brown in a 550-mile match in 1879
- Never one to let aging slow him down, he walked 3,895 miles from New York to San Francisco in 104 days in 1909—at the “young” age of 70
Certainly, there’s a lot to be learned from the fascinating, highly ambitious life of Edward Payson Weston. His passion for walking foreshadowed today’s obsession with physical fitness and staying active. One of his primary concerns, in fact, was that the introduction of automobiles was making everyone lazy and sedentary. In many ways, he was instrumental in motivating people to get up and move.
Speaking of which: Let’s all of us here at Southgate at Shrewsbury retirement community make Mr. Weston proud by taking a stroll around the park. Come on … who’s game?