Kathy Rowe enjoys taking nature walks with her dog Toby.

By Kathy Rowe

Spring is finally here. Time to step outdoors, breathe in that fragrant air and … walk!

Our Centennial community and surrounding areas are filled with fantastic walking trails.  Many of these trails are along beautiful waterways and ravines. From Rouge Beach through the Port Union Waterfront Trail to East Point Park, our access to breathtaking walking paths is impressive. I recently discovered a neat trail through Janellan Park just off Beechgrove Drive. What a pleasant surprise that was.

For those of us who are able-bodied, walking is easy. All you need is a decent pair of comfortable and supportive walking shoes and appropriate outdoor wear. Nothing flashy. Just you and nature.

Inclement weather? No problem. We have the nearby Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, which has a terrific indoor track for walking. The walking track is free during the drop-in times from 7-11 a.m. or 5-8 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 7-11 a.m. on weekends. How great is that? Another option for indoor walking is to visit a shopping mall. Pickering Town Centre opens as early as 7 a.m. for folks who want to do some serious walking.

Regular brisk walking has many medically proven health benefits:

  • It improves your mood and can help with depression.
  • It strengthens bones and muscles.
  • It helps to maintain a healthy weight.
  • It helps to manage heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Like any exercise, it is important to gradually build the speed and duration of the workout. Walking is no exception. Listen to your body and you will enjoy the results.

I am a dog owner, so nature walking is what I do. I love it. My friend Kathy Farquhar shares my sentiments. Kathy walks more than I do and she doesn’t even have a dog!

Kathy shared some of her own jewels about the benefits of walking. “It helps me connect with nature and establishes a routine to my day and week. I don’t wear ear buds or carry a phone when I’m out walking. I like to concentrate on the sounds around me and enjoy trying to identify the different bird calls.”

Kathy has heard and seen a variety of wildlife in our area. “I have seen a family of deer, a pack of coyote and once I saw as many as 25 downy woodpeckers descend on an old dead tree! That was quite a sight to see.”

Mindful Walking

Kathy looks forward to her walks and at times has practised what is called “mindful walking,” a form of active meditation. It requires you to be aware of the way your body is moving through the environment. You become cognizant of your pace, the weight of your feet pressing into your shoes, your posture and, of course, your breathing.

As you continue this mindful walking, you may notice your thoughts drifting away from body awareness. When this occurs, gently bring your thoughts back to your breathing and try to focus on the present moment. Continue this for five to 15 minutes. When you decide to end the meditation, pause briefly by standing still, take a few deep breaths, then resume regular walking.

Like anything, mindful walking takes practice. It will bring relaxation to the mind while you enjoy your natural surroundings. When you return home, don’t forget to do some gentle lower body stretching. You will be amazed at how this makes your body feel.

See you on the trails.