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Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act

by Dan Rubinstein

Dan Rubinstein is obsessed with walking. The journalist and magazine editor’s new book presents a thoroughly researched argument testifying to the fact that walking is good – for our bodies, minds, spirits, societies, economy, creativity, and families. Rubinstein divides his chapters into key topics but he admits his arguments cannot be so tidily contained, and there is considerable overlap between chapters.

Born To Walk (Dan Rubinstein) coverIt is disheartening that we need a book to prove that walking is positive and human beings, evolutionarily blessed with big toes, should walk more. However, Rubinstein illustrates that we are in urgent need of this reminder, in part by sharing alarming anecdotes of inactivity, such as parents driving their children to bus stops at the end of their own blocks. Sitting, researchers tell us, is the new smoking, and Rubinstein posits that the medical apocalypse might decimate us before the environmental one does.

Whether embarking on an expedition to an isolated aboriginal community or taking a group health walk through Glasgow, Rubinstein finds seemingly limitless reasons to espouse the value of travelling by foot. He expresses admiration for countries such as Japan, with its 48 official forest-therapy routes, and Scotland, with its publicly funded walking programs.

Somewhat appropriately, given the subject matter, the bulk of the book features a meandering pace. Each chapter includes a mix of anecdotes, Google-sourced news articles, academic research, and stories from Rubinstein’s own extensive experiences walking throughout the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. The most visceral writing in Born to Walk appears at the start of the final chapter, on family and walking, which is so intense and personal that it comes as something of a surprise.

With fervour and a strong commitment to research, Rubinstein unpacks his simple manifesto: “Walk more. Anywhere.” Walking forces people to slow down and be more actively involved with the world around them. Walking frees the mind to engage in creative processes. Walkable communities have higher property values. Walkers spend more money. Rubinstein’s message is clear: more walking – by everyone – would be a positive step.