Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

People take in the sunny weather while walking dogs on the sand by Lake Ontario at Woodbine Beach in Toronto on Feb. 25, 2021.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Something like six million years ago, early humans began to walk on two legs. Around two million years ago, they became fully bipedal, with long thigh bones that allowed them to take big strides and cover great distances. Anthropologists believe this may have helped them thrive in the broad grasslands of East Africa. With their hands now free, they could pick fruit and carry food, tools or infants.

Ever since, we have been a walking species. To walk is to be human. Yet over the past few generations, many of us have lost the habit. First the horse, then the horse and carriage and finally the motor vehicle gave us a way to get around without the bother of putting one foot in front of the other.

The cult of the car made walking look almost quaint. In rich countries, at least, walking was for suckers. Four wheels good, two legs bad. Cities built to ease the flow of traffic became hostile environments for pedestrians. Today, those who own cars often make even short trips by automobile. In his 2015 book, Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act, Dan Rubinstein writes that 40 years ago, two-thirds of North American children got to school on foot or by bicycle. Today, just one third do.

Story continues below advertisement

Could the COVID-19 disaster reverse this dismal trend? Look out the window these days and it certainly seems possible. Everyone is walking. Cooped-up, stir-crazy home-office workers are walking for exercise. Dog owners are walking the pandemic puppy. Lovers are date-walking. Friends are walking in place of Zooming. Families that used to gather around a screen can be seen chatting and kibitzing as they wander. Even in the depths of winter, the parks have been full of walkers.

It is one of the most heartening changes to come out of the global crisis. Let’s hope it’s a lasting one. The benefits of walking are legion. As Mr. Rubinstein notes, the “measured exertion” of a good walk helps prevent obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It builds bone and muscle and mass. It improves your sense of balance and so cuts down on falls. “I have two doctors, my left leg and my right,” the British historian George Trevelyan said.

Walking clears the head, too. “I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it,” said Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher. You can’t doom scroll while walking. The wisest bosses are positively ordering their charges to take a walk. It makes them happier and more productive.

Wise governments are doing everything they can to get people moving. Toronto closed a waterfront highway to cars last summer and let pedestrians and cyclists take over. They came in throngs. Now it is drawing up creative plans to make two of its most important streets, University and Yonge, friendlier to walkers. It is also bringing in lower speed limits, more crossings and other measures designed to reduce the shocking number of pedestrians who are struck down and killed or injured every year by speeding cars.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is pushing ahead with a $400-million “re-enchanting” of one of the world’s most famous avenues, the Champs-Élysées. The space for cars is to be cut in half. Pedestrians will stroll down a street, shaded by trees and flanked by gardens. Edinburgh wants to ban cars from stately George Street altogether, freeing up space for strolling and biking.

Urban culture is changing. Many city dwellers, especially those who live in the core, are abandoning or parking their cars and walking to work (when permitted). Afterward they walk to the dog park or the bar. Outlying cities, such as Mississauga and Brampton on Toronto’s flank, are rebuilding their centres to make them more “walkable,” now considered the great virtue of well-planned urban areas.

The rage to ramble that has emerged during the pandemic should accelerate the shift. A health crisis is forcing us to rediscover one of the most basic and most healthful of human activities. We are learning to walk again.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies