The majority of people who walk for exercise are playing in life's fourth quarter. While mall walking is not exclusively the purview of seniors, anyone without an AARP card stands out like an ant in the sugar bowl.

While I don't easily admit to a decade long membership, I find the number of hours spent walking with my fellow graybeards replacing time formerly spent playing tennis, as walking doesn't require the conditioning, speed, coordination and flexibility needed to play a competitive match.

In addition to improving muscle tone and cardiovascular performance, walking burns up calories and takes a lot of time. As we age we require less of the former, and have more of the latter available to enjoy.

My wife and I, after a lifetime spent riding everywhere, find walking fun - particularly in a great city like Chicago with miles of lakefront, beautiful parks, hundreds of interesting neighborhoods, and some of the best shopping areas in the world. There are more pairs of performance walking shoes sold in the U.S. today than footwear sold for all other athletic categories combined.

Young people don't seem as anxious to walk, either for exercise or as a means of getting someplace. As little kids, once acquiring the skill, learning to ride a bike provided a much more exciting alternative to walking, and exponentially expanded the neighborhood. As bigger kids, learning to drive not only left the bike parked in the garage, but opened up vistas previously available only to adults.

Walking to school, after securing a driver's license, was only slightly cooler than pressed jeans, or advanced acne. The availability/ownership of a car defined the quality of our recreation, and gave us the ability to reach out beyond our local community for social contact and entertainment.
While, even today, strolling hand in hand with a soulmate or lover remains a favored tradition on college campuses, only underprivileged young people walk to the ballpark, beach, theater or restaurant.

Young people jog, fence, hike, mountain climb, trail run, surf, skate, ski, master the martial arts, run marathons, triathlons, practice yoga, Zen, play baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, football, racquetball, badminton, volleyball and lift weights. For the most part, however, they walk as little as possible. Perhaps for the young, life seems to offer limitless opportunities and they just don't want to slow down for fear of missing one.

There is something profoundly ironic with the fact that we spend our formative years learning to walk, and our final years fighting for the strength to keep on walking. The longer we live the more likely we will lose our right to drive, opportunities to travel, and ability to compete. As long as we are capable of moving under our own power, however, we have independence and the freedom to choose. I can think of no better reason to hike up the sox, and keep on walking.