Walking is one of the few things in life that requires little to no brain power. We don’t have to consciously think about putting one foot in front of the other – our bodies just do it.
That said, everyone has their own unique way to get from point A to point B; be it fast or slow, a straight-line strut or a meandering pattern, with a bit of bounce in the step or long, graceful strides. And as it turns out, this reveals a lot about what makes us tick.
To better understand the link between walking styles and personality, a team of researchers digged up past studies on the topic and looked at the way more than 1,700 people moved about.
Their findings? Most of us don’t take the most physiologically efficient route - our speed differs depending on if we’re alone or with another person and our stroll style reflects our culture and identity.
For example: American men walk faster in the company of other men but walk slower with women. Their pace also quickens by up to 20 per cent, if they’re in a group, or holding a small child. On the other hand, Ugandans are happy to dawdle at a snail’s pace when accompanied by a friend, but if travelling alone they’ll increase the rate they move by 16 per cent.
“It seems plausible that people in Uganda use their time when they are walking in groups to socialise and bond,” Seattle Pacific University professor and the study’s co-author Cara Wall-Scheffler, told the New York Times. In comparison to the busy culture in the US, she added “If the kids are with you, the walking seems to become more task-oriented. You have to get things done. You hurry.”
In short, this study proves that our behaviour – even when we’re functioning on auto-pilot – is influenced by the environment around us and our psychological traits.
Something to think about next time you make the trek from your desk to the staff kitchen.