Two things threw lapsed-walker and journalist Dan Rubinstein back into the habit of moving about town on foot: taking what seemed like a dream position in magazine journalism, which ended up running counter to all his beliefs; and injuring his knee after months of remaining at his office desk to work through deadlines and deaden disappointment. In order to center himself and recover gently, he turned to an old habit of putting one foot behind the other. Rubinstein tells his own walking story and those of many others -- in North America and elsewhere -- in Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act (ECW Press 2015).
Before that, Rubinstein walked around Ottawa, where he lived. He assigned himself travel pieces centered around hikes. As he ranged farther and saw more of his local area, Rubinstein began to want to interview people in Canada (and elsewhere) who are driven by walking. After okaying the idea with his wife, he quit his job and pursued the conversations that went into his book. In Glasgow, Scotland, he interviewed an epidemiologist who studies connections between walking and depression; in Philadelphia, he spoke with criminologist who was looking into police officers' impact on foot patrol; in Japan, Rubinstein looked up a physiological anthropologist who looks at the ways a walk in the woods affects our bodies at a molecular level.
Inspiring walks permeate the book, including those done by Canada's Dr. Stanley Vollant, who did a six-year, 3,800-mile series of walks in all seasons. These took place between every Aboriginal community in Quebec and Labrador, and some in New Brunswick and Ontario. The point, as the book notes, was to show the power of believing in yourself.
We hear about other walks too, and about the many connections between health and walking. At one campfire where Rubinstein was put to work gathering logs, he notes, "Around me, everyone is busy. All of this bustle demonstrates a counterintuitive truth: one of the best treatments for fatigue is moderate activity. Especially if it doesn't feel like exercise."
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