Walk to a young brain

We all know that going for regular walks is a good thing for your body. As you age walking keeps your body supple and can help relieve pains from conditions like arthritis. Now a new study has shown that walking not only helps keep your body young, but your brain too.

One of the problems for your brain as it ages can be that the connections between neurons in your brain start to break down. So the complex networks that support tasks such as driving or anything that requires co-ordination don’t work as well.

To test whether walking might impact the connectivity within your brain researchers tracked a two groups of adults aged between 70 and 80 years. One group undertook regular walks while another group were put on a stretching and strengthening regime. Magnetic resonance images (MRIs) were taken of the brains of the participants to examine brain networks and they were also compared to a group of 20 to 30 year olds.

Up until six months the study showed no significant differences between the groups. However, after twelve months the older people in the walking group became more fit, as you might expect, but they also showed greater improvements in memory, attention, and other cognitive processes. This is all as a result of increases in connectivity within the brain.

The theory is that when we walk we integrate a range of sensory inputs within the brain. Visual input, sounds, and the feedback from your muscles all come together and require synthesising by your brain when you walk. Your brain is making decisions about where to go, how much force to use and much more besides.

The fact that benefits did not show up until after six months reinforces the idea that you need to do something regularly and repetitively before it yields benefits. The great thing about walking is that it is repetitive yet varying at the same time. Even better, at the time of writing, a “walking tax” has not yet been legislated.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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