thoughts on public relations, marketing and a charmed life

Walking the walk

Last year, I made a conscious decision to walk more — to use my legs and feet as my primary means of conveyance throughout the city. But some well-intentioned friends have, in a weird and kind-hearted way, made doing so very difficult.

I grew up in West Edmonton, far from many walkable amenities. When we needed groceries, clothes, or supplies of any kind my parents would drive to the nearest grocery store or the mall. When me and my brothers were old enough to drive, we did. Everywhere. Bicycles, feet and skateboards were no longer an acceptable way to get around. We had licenses, dammit, and we were going to use them — even if it meant driving to the corner store (the one close-by amenity), which was literally on the corner, a few blocks away from home.

My approach to mobility has changed significantly over the last two years. Some of this was due to a “reality check-up” with my family doctor, who reminded me that continuing to engage in the same behaviours (in this case, being more or less totally sedentary) and expecting a different outcome (from, say, risk of heart attack or stroke) is the definition of lunacy. So last June, I purchased my first pedometer — a FitBit Flex — to help me get motivated and actually gain an understanding of how my habitual and frequent car use was contributing to increased risk for health problems down the road (it also helps track calories and sleeping patterns — also fascinating and terribly useful metrics).

“They” say a relatively healthy human being should try and walk 10,000 steps per day. Anyone who works a desk job for eight hours each weekday will tell you that this is an extremely challenging number of steps to achieve, especially if you don’t exercise every day. But having tried to do so for the last eight months has allowed me to get my weight under control and my snacking under control. I’m now — painfully — aware of what ordering a plate of nachos will do to my body, and what it will mean in terms of steps I’ll have to add to my tally.

Which brings me back to my lovely, and well-meaning friends. After an evening out downtown, I’ll often set out to walk home — I basically live within 20-25 minutes’ walk from any location in or near the city’s core. But my friends want to drive me. Because they’re kind and concerned about my safety. But I feel like I need to say yes, rather than get into a lengthy and seemingly-egotistically conversation about health and fitness. So I usually accept their offer, because I believe it’s the polite thing to do, and the crippling anxiety I experience at the thought of saying no and having to explain the reasons why forces my assent.

I’m not blaming my friends for any of my fitness setbacks, by the way; the blame lies wholly with myself. But from now on, I’ll make it clear to them that if I need a ride, I will ask them for one. This will be hard. But we’re close enough that we can do away with politeness. Right?

Keep walking, my friends.

(Oh, and the whole issue of public safety when walking through downtown at night is another topic entirely. I may tackle it later.)


  1. Walking is awesome. After deciding to move from a downtown condo a few years ago we knew we had to be in a walkable neighbourhood, which is why we ended up in Strathcona. My “walkable area” pretty much stretches from 109 st to Bonnie Doon in the warmer months, and less in winter (but still a large area). I like the feeling of getting out and stretching my legs. It also helps that we’re so close to the lovely Mill Creek ravine. That place is awesome!

    • I agree with you, Gord, having a pleasant area to walk in makes a huge difference. If I still lived way out in the west end, I think I’d be way less motivated to walk.

      I also find that having a destination is very helpful, even if it’s just going to the bank, or going to get an ice cream cone.

  2. Dear Adam,

    This is a great story. As a family doctor, as well, I was very pleased to here the interaction with your physician has resulted to a change in your activity.

    It is true that many Canadians are very sedentary. In addition, many of our communities are not pedestrian friendly. Working your activity into your day is a great idea. I encourage my patient to walk their children to school if possible and try to walk to work. Other options including taking the stairs rather than the elevator or parking farther away from stores or businesses. We also have had friends be surprised when we mention that we are walking and sometimes this is short distances within our neighbourhood. You do need to insist that you want to walk.

    The fitbit bracelet or other activity trackers are a great way to encourage less sedentary days. I actually started a fitbit group with several of my patients and am currently working and competing with them to be more active. Personally, I noticed that the days I am in my clinical office were my most sedentary. To correct this I started walking from downtown town to my clinic adding 20 minutes of brisk walking twice a day to my clinic days.

    Keep up the good work, Adam.

    Dr Doug Klein

    • Thanks for your comment, Doug. It’s cool to know that technologies like the fitbit create new opportunities for us to challenge one another, and also to be accountable to one another.

      I hope to cover this topic again in the future, with some details on my personal progress.