Walk Your Brain to Health?


Wait a minute...WALKING?!

It's no secret that physical exercise is good for your body: cardiovascular health, muscle tone, flexibility, the works.

But as you've probably recently heard, it's also good for keeping your brain healthy, which is of course dandy news if you're already a runner, biker, swimmer or gym rat -- but what about regular people? What about those who just can't take the time, physical demands, or (often annoying, crowded) gym environments?

Good news for you and your brain: the simple activity of walking has recently been shown to significantly boost your brain health...from improving memory to learning ability to concentration to cutting your risk of stroke in half, walking-as-physical-exercise is perhaps the easiest way to help your brain AND your physical health at the same time.

Not to mention getting a relaxing, even meditative (and enjoyable!) break. Take THAT, stresed-out preening gym rats!

Why is walking so good? Walking is good for your brain because it increases blood circulation, oxygen and glucose that reach your brain -- which effectively oxygenates your brain. And since walking is not overly strenuous, your muscles don't take up extra oxygen and glucose as they often do during other forms of exercise. This increased blood, glucose & oxygen flow to your brain helps produce the relaxed, "clearing of the mind" feeling that often accompanies taking a walk.

Memory boost: studies of senior citizens who walk regularly show significant improvement in memory skills compared to sedentary elderly people, and also improved their learning ability, concentration, and abstract reasoning while cutting stroke risk by a whopping 57% in people who walked as little as 20 minutes a day!

Are you feeling those excuses fading away as you're reading this?

Cuts cognitive decline: a University of California at San Francisco study in which researchers measured the brain function of nearly 6,000 women during an eight-year period was correlated with the women's normal activity level, including their routine walking and stair-climbing: "In the higher-energy groups, we saw much less cognitive decline," said neurologist Kristine Yaffe, MD. Of the women who walked the least (a half-mile per week), 24% had significant declines in their test scores, compared to only 17% of the most active women (17 miles per week).


And even small increases helped: "We also found that for every extra mile walked per week there was a 13% less chance of cognitive decline," said Yaffe, who is Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center. "So you don't need to be running marathons. The exciting thing is there was a 'dose' relationship which showed that even a little is good but more is better."

"In the higher-energy groups, we saw much less cognitive decline" – a protective effect amounting to as much as 40% – according to Yaffe. She concluded, "This is an important intervention that all of us can do and it could have huge implications in preventing cognitive decline."

Let's read that again: a protective effect amounting to as much as 40%? Stroke risk cut by 57% by walking as little as 20 minutes per day? Getting a nice, relaxing, meditative break from daily monotony? Seeing the world around you, getting outside, turning off the TV and computer and email? Free, no health club membership or physical trainer required?

Sorry, would write more but there's a rare small sun break in the Seattle sky...time for that walk! Gotta keep the brain in shape...

Hope to see you out there!

- The BrainReady Team

(Let other BrainReady readers know what regular walking has done for YOUR health -- and share some of your favorite places to take walks! Use the 'Comments' link below and share your tips & experiences with others!)

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