Frigate birds and walking


Okay, some of you know that I am in Hawaii. Tropical Storm Flossie passed through windward Oahu the night before last with barely a whimper. As I walked the beach this morning, an unusual number of frigate birds seemed to be in flight.  For those who don’t know frigate birds, they are sea birds with the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any bird. Basically, they are gliders. They can stay aloft for a week. Not being able to take off from water, these fish eaters must snatch their prey from the water surface with their long beaks (that is when they are not stealing from each other and other birds as well). If you have never seen them, they are amazing, graceful fliers.

Seeing dozens in the sky at the same time got me thinking about what they were actually doing. Clearly, they were riding the updrafts, but there was nothing in their behavior that suggested that they were seeking food or on their way somewhere. Unlike raptors and vultures which constantly soar  in search of food, the frigate birds looked like they were just out for a good time.

So, what does this have to do with walking?

Frigate birds clearly must stay in good physical condition. However, I don’t see them doing interval training or racing through the sky except perhaps when heading downwind. Nothing on Google suggested that there are gyms for frigate birds.

Frigate birds are doing just what is natural to them to stay in shape. They soar. They somehow balance their energy intake with their energy output to maintain an optimal body mass and physical conditioning.

For millions of years our ancestors have relied on walking as our dominant mode of getting around in the world. Bipedal locomotion developed in our earliest ancestors and literally allowed humankind to become the most widespread mammalian species on the planet (yes, I know we have had some followers, but we led the way).

While we can’t enjoy soaring, we can enjoy walking. Like the frigate bird and soaring, we have evolved to become walkers. Incorporating a regular walking regimen into our lives leads to dramatic health benefits and it is easy on the body. It works because we are asking the body to do what it already knows how to do best.

I will have more on the benefits of walking in my next post.


Dr Jeff