It’s Slow, but It’s So Good For You

If you really think about it, you probably can remember several key life transforming walks

that you’ve taken over the years. They may have been as short as a walk down a church aisle or a month long trek along El Camino de Santiago. These strolls or treks may have confirmed life choices, fulfilled a dream or lead to a major proverbial fork in the road.

Often it is difficult to see the way ahead, but in looking over your shoulder you can most definitely see the path walked to get as far as you did.  How did the inspirational landmarks or the beliefs and values motivate you over the years?

For me one walk comes immediately to mind. As a penurious McGill University graduate I had carefully planned an evening out with a young woman that I was smitten by. The needed funds for the date came from selling some of my blood for a lab experiment at the university– I didn’t tell my lady that, though. After a great supper at an Argentine parrilla on Rue St. Denis in Montreal we caught the Metro up to the Rosemont Station, then had a two kilometre walk to the Outremont Theatre.

This great classic pre-Depression theatre, now a National Historic Site, was then, in 1973, a repertory film house showing, as I recall, the Academy Award winning 1960 film Sons and Lovers. I don’t recall much about the film at all – only the jeune belle fille seated next to me.

After the film we chose to walk through Outremont, then on to the campus of the Université de Montréal, followed by a walk down the slope of Mont Royal in front of St. Joseph Oratory before a final parting at the corner of Chemin Queen Mary and Boulevard Decarie with a kiss. During that kilometre walk, the hopes, dreams and stories shared, helped launch our now 40+ year marriage.

Hippocrates, the 5th century Greek physician, famously said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” A host of recent scientific studies back-up this basic contention (Check out and click on the Exercise tab under “Living With Arthritis,” the Workouts section features an article called “12 Benefits of Walking.”)

. The psychological and spiritual benefits of walking can be easily deduced from this as well.

Walking has become my chief mode of locomotion in the Yukon. I have not had a car here since 1998. From a health perspective I may have been able to fight off diabetes which has been the bane of my family and maintain a basic fitness level through just the daily need to get to work and run errands. Nordic Walking poles amplify the benefit of this daily regime by engaging core muscles and upping calorie burn by 30 to 45 per cent. Local walking clubs and a Nordic walking coach like Suat Tuzlak, Alpine Bakery social entrepreneur par excellence and Slow Food elder, can introduce you to Nordic Walking.

The financial benefits are obvious as well. A $26 senior’s monthly bus pass or a strip of 10 tickets for $10 is a whole lot cheaper than supporting a car. A senior’s bus pass covers my more extended roaming within city limits. Given the option, I prefer my 20 minute walk to work at F.H. Collins from my downtown apartment or the 38 minutes it takes to hike to Yukon College.  

Slowing down to walking speed brings you more in touch with the rhythm of the city, too. The chance to exchange a greeting with a neighbour on the street, to take in the smells and sounds around us may just reorient a walker to what, after all, is truly meaningful in life.

We all make decisions everyday that affect our health and the health of the planet. One simple, win-win proposition, is to walk. And when you can’t, take the bus.

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