PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Walking is the real miracle drug.
Scientists have long connected systematic exercise to better health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular walkers "live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers."
A recent New York Times headline proclaimed, "To Age Well, Walk." The story reported on a massive new study that concluded: "Regular exercise, including walking, significantly reduces the chance that a frail older person will become physically disabled."
This is certainly good news for those of us whose age at our last birthday started with a 7. But the benefits of walking go far beyond lower cholesterol and higher energy.
Walking is about souls as well as soles. It raises your awareness as well as your heart rate. It returns you to a ground-level view of the world. It reveals small moments of beauty and joy -- stones and flowers, babies and birds -- that can't be appreciated or even noticed through a car window.
Here on Pawleys Island, where we've spent our vacations for more than 35 years, our evening walks on the beach are often the best part of the day.
Overhead fly formations of pelicans, fondly known as the Pawleys Island Air Force, who patrol the beach with the gliding grace of ballet dancers. One memorable evening, just as the setting sun was streaking the sky purple and pink, dozens of these compelling creatures hovered over a school of baitfish just offshore and plunged repeatedly into the sea, foraging for dinner.
That scene happened once, in real time. Not in a text or a tweet or a YouTube video. And you had to be walking on the beach to see it.
Our children were 9 and 7 when we first visited this island, and we dreamed for years of grandchildren digging the same sand, riding the same waves, seeing the same sunsets.
The dream came true. Now the younger generation is entering teen-hood like brightly colored birds on long legs -- still a bit awkward on land, but getting ready to fly away. Any day now.
Not only does walking fortify personal connection, it reveals physical beauty. Only on foot can you fully appreciate the curve of a stone archway, the color of a marble wall, the delicacy of a hanging geranium spilling out of a window box, the sudden view of a greening valley framed by a narrow alley.
During our next beach walk, we probably won't see any 17th-century cathedrals. But we will see dogs chasing gulls. Babies splashing the surf. Pelicans guarding the coast.
We will raise our heartbeats, and renew our ties to this community. One step at a time.
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.