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 '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.
Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. We are learning quickly that a sedentary lifestyle is a quick way to the grave. 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 job, but walking is something I like to do for exercise and I do it outside, not on the treadmill (benefits the brain too). I walk 2-4 miles a day depending on my schedule and walking is great for the heart, circulation, muscles, stress and helps to 'clear' one's head from the activities of the day. Not only that, 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. And when it shrinks, it leads to Alzheimer's disease and dementias.The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus increased in size by only 2% or 3%, but that was enough to offset the steady shrinkage doctors expected to see over the same period.
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 exercise to be a daily thing and 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, get you a step counter and use it to get your step count up each day. The exercise you do today will benefit you tomorrow.
Rise up and get walking!!
Ward W. Bond, PhD