Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act
By Dan Rubinstein. ECW, 283 pp, hardcover
There are lots of seemingly insurmountable problems that face the modern world: climate change, mental illness, obesity, and urban alienation. But what if one simple habit could address all of these issues—and more?
As it turns out, walking is that habit. And in Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act, Dan Rubinstein makes an impassioned case for reintroducing the age-old art of ambling to everyday life.
Born to Walk finds the Ottawa journalist at a turning point that may sound familiar to many young professionals. He’s restless, disillusioned; his job feels increasingly disconnected from what’s important to him. Then a knee injury sidelines him. Unable to run, Rubinstein begins taking long walks. And the results are so profound that he quits his job and embarks on a quest to understand the power of putting one foot in front of the other. In the process, he unearths fascinating facts on how walking can improve our bodies, minds, society, economy, political process, creativity, spirits, and families.
The project takes him to Wales to explore the rugged Coastal Path. He joins beat cops in Philadelphia whose foot patrols have cut crime and fostered trust between the police and the community. He accompanies a First Nations doctor on a trek through northern Quebec to promote wellness. He joins a walking group in Glasgow, the sickest city in the U.K., and observes how the walking cure is improving mental health.
This narrative arc—Rubinstein’s personal journey around the globe—yields the most compelling material of the book. The thread is sometimes lost to his enthusiasm for delving into research, making some of the chapters a little bogged down. But persevering is well worth the effort.
This is an inherently inspirational work, and one that holds real promise for social change. Add to that: reading it is often a delightfully visceral experience. Born to Walk invigorates—it convinces you that it’s time to get off the couch, lace up your sneakers, and rediscover the simple pleasure of a good walk.