A brisk walk not only gets your blood pumping and tones your heart – it could save your brain too. According to new research published in the journal Neurology, taking a daily walk prevents brain atrophy and the loss of brain volume that goes along with aging. So, if you want to hold onto your gray matter, it’s time to lace up the walking shoes.
Does Walking Prevent Loss of Brain Volume?
In a retrospective study, researchers looked at the exercise habits of 299 older people with normal brain function. Nine years later, their heads were scanned using MRI to quantify their brain size and volume. Four years later, their memory and cognition were tested.
The results? Healthy, older individuals who walked six to nine miles per week had larger amounts of gray matter than those who walked less – or didn’t walk at all.
Gray matter is the portion of the brain associated with intelligence and higher learning. A greater amount of gray matter is correlated with better cognitive function.
Even though walking up to nine miles a week preserved gray matter and prevented loss of brain volume in this study, walking additional miles didn’t add additional benefits. So, there seems to be a law of diminishing returns when it comes to walking and brain health.
Does Walking Preserve Memory and Cognitive Function Too?
Individuals who walked between six and nine miles per week, not only had more gray matter, but that additional gray matter helped to maintain their cognitive function and preserve memory. Regular walkers cut their risk of cognitive problems and memory impairment by half. Pretty impressive for walking only a mile a day.
Prevent Loss of Brain Volume and Save Your Brain by Walking
What does this mean? Taking a brisk stroll – a mile a day – helps preserve gray matter and prevent loss of brain volume. Who wouldn’t want that? Since the average person walks around three miles-per-hour, this translates into a twenty minute walk daily – and if you do it outdoors, you’ll get vitamin D as well.
The bottom line? Don’t underestimate the power of walking. it’s a great stress-reliever that could save your brain as well.
Medscape.com. "Walking Maintains Brain Volume, Prevents Cognitive Impairment"