Going for a walk wasn’t really a thing 300 years ago – the Victorians turned it into a popular pastime (Lauren Nichola Colley, 12/27/23, The Conversation)

You might be surprised to hear that “going for a walk” wasn’t really a thing until the late 1700s.

The term “pedestrianism” may have Latin roots, but in the 1800s its first association would have been a sporting one. “Professional pedestrianism” or “race-walking” was fiercely competitive by the 1850s.

Tournaments in America took place over six days, with entrants walking the equivalent of 450 miles, taking naps in tents by the track and sipping champagne en route. The stringent “heel-to-toe rule” still in place states that “the advancing leg must be straightened from the moment of first contact with the ground.”

Walking as a leisure activity came about around the 1780s. Until this point walking had been an act of necessity, associated with poverty, vagrancy and even criminal intent. Many individuals would live and die never having seen beyond a few square miles of bleak cityscape and only slightly further for those in the country.

Along with the rural appreciation of the Lake poets – including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge – at the turn of the century, famous walkers such as Charles Dickens brought the pastime of walking into vogue.