young fitness woman legs walking on forest trail

How walking helps keep your brain healthy

Physical exercise such as walking is good for your Health. You probably know that it benefits the heart, strengthens bones and muscles and even prolongs our lives. Besides helping us lose weight and keeping fit, walking has other new found benefits — for our brain.

Researchers from New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found that the foot’s impact while walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that increases the blood supply to the brain.

Walking produced larger pressure waves in the body which significantly increased the flow of blood to the brain.

Blood supply to the brain was once considered an involuntary action regulated by the body and relatively unaffected by changes in blood pressure caused by exercise or exertion. However, previous studies have shown that the foot’s impact during running causes back-flowing waves through the arteries that sync with the runner’s heart rate and stride thus regulating blood circulation to the brain.

In this new study, the research team examined the effects of walking, which involves a lighter foot impact than running.

They used a non-invasive ultrasound to measure internal carotid-artery diameter and blood velocity waves of 12 healthy young adults during standing upright test and steady walking tests. This was done to measure the blood flow to the brain during steady walking. The participants were also assessed at rest.

The scientists found that walking resulted in a significant blood flow to the brain despite having a lighter foot impact. Walking produced larger pressure waves in the body which significantly increased the flow of blood to the brain. The blood flow was not as dramatic as seen while running but had greater effects than that seen during cycling, which has no foot impact at all.

The new data suggests that the brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts.

There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow while pedalling, walking and running which optimises brain perfusion, function and overall sense of wellbeing during such activities.

The scientists conclude that there is an optimising rhythm between brain blood flow and walking and that stride rates and foot impacts are within the normal range of our heart rate ( about 120 per minute).

The foot’s impact while walking helps control and increase the amount of blood sent to the brain. More blood means more energy and more oxygen in the brain — and thus an enhanced sense of wellbeing.

This study further strengthens the case for exercise and movement. And the easiest way to do this is by walking!

Source: Experimental Biology 2017

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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