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In praise of - Shanks's pony.

These are dangerous days.

The trough between Christmas and New Year.

Days when excessive consumption burps out hazardous ideas. Ideas that might threaten your wellbeing. Or your financial status. Ideas like circuit training, or looking out that mouldy pair of trainers and going for a run. Bad ideas. Ideas that will end in tears or maybe even a pulled muscle. Or worse. A subscription to a gym you'll never visit after the first week in February.

Time, instead, to go for a walk. When I rouse myself – not as often as I should, I admit – I'll head out to the towpath and walk for a mile along the Forth and Clyde Canal, then climb the hill to the Union Canal, and then stride – OK, amble – past swans and ducks and high rises, the whole of the Forth valley stretching out before me, a view that takes in everything from the Ochils to the petrochemical works at Grangemouth. One huge panoramic vista passing at three miles an hour.

When you drive you're in your own movie. The world spools by at film speed. On foot you are in the landscape. Part of it.

And on foot you're travelling at thinking speed. "I can only meditate when I'm walking," the inveterate rambler Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote. "When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs."

There is something in that. Walking lets your thoughts unfurl, gives them space to breathe.

Even in cities. Especially in cities, in fact. To walk in a city – through Soho or down the Grassmarket or around St Mark's Square – is to feel plugged in, part of the rush and hum of humanity. On foot you are in the world, not just passing through.

And if you're tired you can always take the bus home.

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