Aging Walking

Old Man Walking

My friend recently commented that I was taking such short, shuffling steps that I looked like an old man when I walked. While said partly in jest, his words held some truth that stung a bit. My usual brisk stride had slowed to a plodding pace somewhere along the line without me realizing it. Age was creeping up on me gradually, evidenced not just in my slowed gait but my increasingly aching joints and graying hair.

My friend advised me to take longer strides, saying it would make me appear more youthful. After considering his suggestion, I realized he had a point. Length of stride is often an indicator of age and vitality. Elderly people tend to take shorter, slower steps as their energy wanes and bodies become stooped. Younger people naturally move with longer, loping gaits.

Consciously extending my stride did make me feel and look more energetic. It required some concentrated effort at first to break my shuffling habit. But soon my old, longer stride felt natural again. The further reach of each step worked muscles that had become inactive and gave me more power and momentum. I found myself walking faster without even meaning to, no longer plodding along but moving with purpose. My renewed gait made me look more alert and engaged with life.

In addition to taking longer strides, I realized I should also make an effort to smile more when I’m out walking. I tend to wear a worried or intense expression, furrowing my brow without realizing it. But a smile can do wonders to make me appear more upbeat and approachable. Smiling more will not only help me look friendlier to others, but also lift my own mood and outlook.

In the end, I was grateful to my friend for his advice. His playful jab about my aging walk spurred me to reclaim the vigorous stride of my youth. While growing older is inevitable, small adjustments like this can help recapture the vitality we sometimes fear is lost with the passing years. Conscious changes in habits and posture can work wonders to make us feel younger, keeping that youthful spring in our step.

Here’s a little poem on the subject:

The Longer Stride

My steps had become short, My pace slow and tired,
But your words sparked in me A passion re-fired.

With just a small tweak To my gait’s length and style,
I now walk with the vigor Of youth for a while.

Each long stride propels My body ahead,
Renewing my energy That once seemed shed.

My muscles awaken, Joyful and spry,
As I take to the roads With new stride in my eye.

No more am I shackled By short shuffling feet.
I’m striding with purpose, My vitality replete.

So thank you, my friend, For advising me so.
With each lengthened stride, My youthful vigor grows.

Note: this post was inspired by a story told during an interview with McKay Coppins about his new book about Mitt Romney. Also, Claude helped me write this post.