By Shannon Devy
I was never much of a walker. But all that changed when I adopted a dog.
I never liked to walk. For many years, I was immune to the reported charms of strolling for its own sake. I much preferred sitting or being horizontal, two deep personal passions which I pursued daily with total dedication. The primary perils of perambulation (heat, sore feet and boredom) were best avoided, in my opinion. But then I adopted Edie, a little rescue puppy, and whether I liked it or not, walking became a regular activity.
Edie is an anxious little pup. She dislikes a long list of things, including but not limited to strangers, strange environments, people she loves but forgot about, rain, wind, things which move in the wind, bicycles, skateboards and being left on her own for more than one minute. But if there’s one thing she is passionate about, it’s a walk. At first, our regular forays to the dog park or nearby forest felt like a chore. But soon enough, I noticed that it was no longer Edie I was taking for a walk – it was me.
My conversion to walking enthusiast happened slowly, the result of a gradual process of noticing. First, I noticed that I felt a lot better after a walk than I did before one. Then I started to notice other things – little things I’d been missing. The smell of wet earth after rain early in the morning. The way sun beams split through foliage at a certain point in the afternoon in Autumn. How many uncountable shades of green there are. An abundance of excellent dogs and puppies. The clarity of mind that results when you allow your thoughts to wander as you do. That special hidden world that rushes open as soon as one slows down and really looks. Walking was, I found, wondrous.
And of course, that’s not to mention the physical and mental benefits. Studies show that a gentle daily walk can reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression, anxiety and fatigue, and even reduce your risk of dying by up to 39% (NBC). Like many of us, I spent many years labouring under the false assumption that, if I wanted to enjoy the benefits of exercise, I better be gasping by the end of a workout. I spent hours suffering in a sweltering CrossFit box or choking on heated chlorine fumes in commercial gyms, wishing I was anywhere (literally anywhere) else. Yes, I got fitter. But I never stuck with it. Soon enough, I’d find that years had passed since I’d set foot in a running shoe, let alone a gym.
Walking marks a gentler, more sustainable approach to my health. Its benefits are quick and clear – no matter what kind of day I’m having, once I enter the cool, shady, pine- and earth-scented realm of the forest, problems seem to recede, giving way to the restorative peace of the trees. And of course, adding to my own joy, it is an absolute pleasure to see my little dog transformed. Normally quiet and withdrawn, on a walk, Edie becomes a joyful, moving blur, dashing in and out of rivers and ponds, sniffing logs and other dogs. Like me, her cares appear to vanish. And like me, I know she’s looking forward to the next adventure the moment we get home.
Enjoyed this article?
Subscribe to our newsletter to get more just like it, sent straight to your inbox every week.