Many of us walk without thinking about it. We walk from room to room, to the kitchen, to the car or walk around the mall. But did you know that simply ‘walking’ benefits your brain?
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
If you don’t move it, you’re going to lose it – and in this case, your brain function.
The direct benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. The indirect benefits of exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.
Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment. I personally walk for exercise. I don’t have the knees to run or jog, but walking is something I like to do for exercise and I do it outside, not on the treadmill (which benefits the brain, too). Walking is great for the heart, circulation, muscles, stress and helps to ‘clear’ one’s head from the stresses of the day. Walking can help improve your creativity, too!
Now for a little tech talk: Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. The prefrontal cortex is involved in a lot of higher-level cognitive functions and the hippocampus is involved in memory formation. When it shrinks, it leads to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias.
According to the Harvard Health blog, the question was asked how much exercise is required? An hour twice a week is an excellent start. I prefer to see walking as a daily exercise. Remember, this is walking briskly, not moseying merrily along. You want to get the heart rate up and get the blood pumping. And swing those arms! Walking has an amazing effect upon every part of the body!
For those who don’t have time to walk for exercise, buy yourself a step counter and use it to get your step count up each day. You can also use the included HEALTH app which is built in to all iPhones. It’s counting your steps already, even if you didn’t know it! The exercise you do today will benefit you tomorrow.
Rise up and get walking!!
Ward Bond, PhD is widely known for his TV program ‘Think Natural’ and his lectures, as one of America’s most prominent authorities on natural health and nutrition. Learn more about Dr. Bond at DrWardBond.com