Many people these days, disdainful of jogging, are walking to improve their physical well-being.
These walkers recognize that no special proficiency, equipment or expertise is necessary. Just two feet plus the natural proclivity towards motion.
"The Complete Book of Walking," by Charles T. Kuntzleman and the editors of Consumer Guide (Simon and Schuster, $10), is an encouraging manual that begins by praising the advantages of walking, and thereby propels the reader up onto his feet, and through a delightful narrative of the "foot" falls of the habit.
According to Kuntzleman, walking reduces many risk factors of coronary heart disease, such as hypertension and overweightness, while improving cardiovascular fitness -- the circulation and utilization of oxygen throughout the body.
The authors believe walking is the perfect exercise for those for whom running is too strenuous or too much of a hassle. Although walking is not as demanding as jogging, it does increase oxygen consumption enough to be considered an aerobic exercise.
Walking is also an exercise that people tend to stay with, and for exercise to be effective, it must be continued.
As a precaution, the authors recommend a conference with a doctor before beginning a walking program. Usually, however, there are no problems. Even people with heart disease, arthritis, emphysema and other problems can usually benefit from walking.
Even creativity is supposedly stimulated by walking, with the authors citing Henry Thoreau, Abe Lincoln and Albert Einstein as examples of creative minds that were helped through the release of tension and pent-up emotions.
Many Washingtonians are walking for exercise. Kathy Boyd, 25, a project development officer for the government, spends her lunch hour walking three miles each day.
"I have a route plotted through Arlington Cemetery," says Boyd. "If you walk at a good brisk pace, it's almost as good for your body as a slow jog."
Weight loss varies according to the individual. Kuntzleman noted that a 140 pound person walking three miles per hour uses about 250 calories per hour, whereas a 120 pound person walking three miles per hour uses about 215 calories per hour.
Although advocating an individual walking style and pace, Kuntzleman recommends various jogging shoes.
"Tennis shoe materials do not absorb the shock of your foot hitting the ground," said Boyd.
Where you walk depends on your location and interests, although the authors of "The Complete Book of Walking" recommend a grassy surface to avoid foot and leg problems. Otherwise, good shock-absorbing shoes can help prevent or minimize problems.
Additionally, the muscles in the backs of the legs contract from walking, so flexibility exercises and calisthenics are recommended. Once your body is in shape, you can continue to increase aerobic capabilities by walking faster rather than farther.
Although some walkers don't own cars, others, like Jim Roelofs, a Labor Department employe, just prefer their body's own mode of transportation. Roelofs lives in Rosslyn and frequently walks the C&O Canal towpath.
"I don't need my car," he insisted. "I guess it's a hangover from when I worked in the suburbs and had to commute. Now I'd just as soon let my car sit. Besides, look at them," he pointed to some joggers. "They're in pain! I'm not a health nut. I regard joggers as fanatics."
"I can't job, it wears me out," said Ann Lewis while out walking with her 11-year-old daughter, Sara, and friend Mary Fail, also 11. "Plus, I can't see anything; I might as well be in a car. And then jogging is a singular sport whereas walking is companionable. Jogging, you lose your rhythm if you stop to even say hello."
Companionship is certainly a reason Georgetown residents Carrie Clark and Dana Peck walk together along the canal towpath and in Rock Creek Park. According to Peck, "The best way to walk is with your arms around each other, though I do tend to walk faster alone."
To those sentiments, Clark added, "You do burn more calories walking briskly. But whether we're together or not, I can just walk out of the house. I don't have to remember any equipment or anything."
Is Washington a good place for walking enthusiasts?
"It's one of the few cities around where you can get completely out of an urban environment in 10 minutes and on foot," said Peck. "Particularly in a place like Rock Creek Park."