Barbara Fish Counselling Services ... helping your life work

Take a Hike

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 8, Issue 5

May, 2012

In keeping with last month’s topic of countering our increasingly sedentary lifestyle by interspersing more physical activity throughout our day, I thought I would write about one form of movement that most of us could do.

We know the benefits of walking. It’s a cheap and simple form of exercise that most able-bodied people can do fairly easily and on a regular basis. It improves our level of fitness, increases our bone density, lowers our blood pressure and reduces our risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

Walking is also psychologically therapeutic. Walking can refresh us and clear our minds. Walking away from computers that we have been poring over for hours can help us regain focus and perspective. When we are upset or overwhelmed, walking can slow us down, settle us, and improve our mood.

Despite all the benefits and ease of doing it, many of us have developed a repertoire of excuses to avoid it, like, “It’s too cold/rainy,” “I don’t have time,” “I have no one to walk with” and so on. Even though the winter in Toronto was fairly mild this year, many of us hibernated in our respective caves. And despite the ever-increasing cost of gas, we often drove to the corner store rather than walked there. Now that the weather is warm and the days are long, we are warming to the idea of getting outside more often and taking a hike.

With that in mind, let’s consider programming a walk into our daily schedules. If we like an early morning walk, let’s set the alarm clock earlier so that we can fit it in before work or school. Whenever the distance is close enough to walk to a destination, let’s leave the car at home. When given the choice of elevator or stairs, let’s choose the stairs. If we prefer to walk with others but have found no one in our neighbourhoods to walk with, let’s check out the large number of walking groups that exist in the city. There is something for everyone, depending on our area, age, gender and interests. There are also numerous, professionally led walking tours that introduce us to the history and geography of a particular area of town. Jane’s Walk, named after Jane Jacobs, Toronto’s own urban planning activist, has offered hundreds of walks led by volunteers to introduce others to their community at the beginning of each May. Last year, there were 15 countries that held more than 500 walks in 75 cities in honour of Jane’s Walk.

There are also a great many hiking books. One of the more popular ones here in Toronto was written by an acquaintance of mine, Elliott Katz. An avid walker and biker, Elliott is the author of three books that celebrate the wonderful places in Canada to explore by foot or bicycle. I recently read a copy of his “Great Country Walks Around Toronto” originally written in 1984, and now in its 13th printing and 6th edition. A compact book, easily stored in one’s coat pocket, it contains the routes for 22 hikes in and around the city of Toronto, from the Humber Arboretum in the west to the Rouge River in the east, from the Oak Ridges Moraine to the north, to the Toronto Islands to the South. Each chapter contains interesting historical and geographical facts, information about the local flora and fauna and directions by transit.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s take a hike. Let me know how you make out.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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