The Walking Cure

The weather here in Toronto has warmed up enough to remind us that spring is coming but not so much that walking around outside was at all comfortable. Knowing that this is my peak time of year for cabin fever helped, but I still felt restless and frustrated.

I had a headache that lasted for almost the entire weekend. I could almost make it go away with over-the-counter painkillers, sleep, and many cups of herbal tea, but it kept raging back to life.

In short, it was a grumpy weekend at my house. When I feel that way, I respond by saying as little as possible. My bad mood is one hundred percent my responsibility. No one else should be expected to handle it.

You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is. – Ellen DeGeneres

Still, I did wonder at first what Drew was thinking when he invited me on a walk. He’s even less thrilled with this kind of weather than I am.

It was 2 C outside and sunny, though, which is much better than it’s been lately. I said yes. The medicine was working again, and I wanted to see if it could finally clear away all of my discomfort.

The nice thing about talking a walk is that you don’t have to carry on a conversation while you’re doing it. You can, of course, but there’s also something to be said for silence.

The streets were a little more crowded than I expected for a Sunday afternoon. Large piles of dirty snow had been shoved to the edge of the sidewalk. Long-forgotten garbage was poking out of some of them. Several frozen puddles of vomit dotted the sidewalk.

There was also a dazzlingly white poodle trotting down the street, though. If she were human, I would have sworn she was smiling.

I also noticed two parents taking a walk with their son. A stranger stopped them to guess the boy’s age.

“Eight?”

“No,” the parents laughed. “He’s tall for his age.”

Walking is my main method of relaxation. I don’t go over my lines or try to solve the world’s problems, I just enjoy the scenery and the wildlife. – Kevin Whately

True, most of the wildlife in downtown Toronto is pigeon-shaped, but occasionally you’re surprised with something else. I’ve seen raccoons, rats, and butterflies.

There are always dogs of every shape and size you can imagine. Their impeccable manners never fail to impress me. The dogs I grew up with were never dangerous, but they were liable to jump on you in excitement or bark at a stranger. Toronto dogs don’t do that. At most, you might find one who nuzzles his or her way into a petting session.

Walking is good exercise, but I’ve found that it’s also good for the mind.

I love walking down the street and seeing faces and drama and happiness and sadness and dirt and cleanliness. – Ric Ocasek

It’s hard to stay in a funky mood when there are so many interesting people and animals to watch. You catch tidbits of conversations. You see couples argue, fathers kissing their babies, trees rustling in the breeze, and dogs pausing to sniff buildings that have been around for a hundred years.

Walking is incredibly relaxing. I’d almost forgotten just how good it makes me feel. By the end of our trip, my headache was gone and I was no longer feeling irritated.

I know most of my examples are of things that normally only happen in urban areas, but walking through the woods or down the main street of a small town is just as nice. If you have any stories about walks you’ve taken in any environment, I’d love to hear them!

Remember:

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. – Steven Wright

 

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0 Responses to The Walking Cure

  1. According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the most cognitively taxing – and rewarding – activity one can do, is to walk for extended periods over uneven ground. As you might find when wilderness hiking. He claims that the effort expended during a few minutes of continually assessing where to put our feet (rather than just aimlessly wandering on flat terrain, or even auto-pilot walking) is equivalent to several hours of “brain training” on one of those new websites.

    I’m not sure I can accept that as fact, but the obvious advantages of walking in elevating mood, lowering stress levels and blood pressure, and improving cognitive efficiency is difficult to deny. I need very much to do it more often.

    Though one wonders, if walking is so good for us, shouldn’t mail carriers be the happiest people on Earth?

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