In other words, walking may be your ticket to protecting your brain from age-related cognitive decline.
To learn more about the brain benefits of walking, we spoke with Dave Rabin, MD, PhD, neuroscientist and board-certified psychiatrist of Apollo Neuroscience. It’s pretty mind-blowing how just putting one foot in front of the other can feel good from head to toe.
The cognitive benefits of walking
Walking may seem like too simple an exercise to be particularly beneficial to your health, but the truth is that while there are definitely benefits to more intense types of exercise like HIIT workouts and Pilates, there are still many benefits to be gained from regular walking. .
“Walking may seem simple enough to those of us who are able to, but it’s a complex process that involves the interplay of neuromuscular, sensory and cognitive functions,” says Dr. Rabin. “Many studies have even shown that participating in walking exercises can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia.” This is partly because walking increases blood flow to the brain, which also releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that improve our mental health and mood, according to Dr. Rabin.
At this point, a fairly rich body of scientific evidence demonstrates that walking alters our brains and bodies in positive ways. “There’s the most obvious aspect – that we become more aerobically fit when we introduce more exercise into our daily lives – but the brain improvements in walking are fascinating,” shares Dr Rabin. “A recent study by NeuroImage in June 2021 shows that exercise can renovate our brain’s white matter, improving our ability to think and remember as we age. We can look to walking as an investment in our future health.
And the benefits of walking for the brain aren’t just for the elderly. Studies show that young adults are also able to derive significant brain-boosting benefits from low-intensity exercise like walking.
How Walking Improves Brain Health
So we know walking is good for the brain, but How? ‘Or’ What Does Walking Exactly Improve Brain Health? Dr. Rabin says it mainly comes down to the fact that walking increases cerebral blood flow, which in itself benefits the brain. Additionally, the increased blood flow to the brain stimulates the release of endorphins, which boost our mood and sense of well-being.
“Studies show that after just six months of regular walking, participants have better cardiovascular fitness and better memory,” says Dr. Rabin. “I really like the idea of James Clear in Atomic Habits about “walking slowly, but not backwards”. Just get out a little each day, show yourself and the benefits will follow.
How walking can boost memory and concentration
Dr. Rabin says that physical exercise, like waking up, boosts our memory and concentration in several ways. For starters: “It stimulates physiological changes, such as the reduction of insulin resistance and inflammation, while also causing the production of chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain,” he explains. -he. “It encourages the abundance, survival, and overall health of our brain cells.”
How much you need to walk to benefit your brain
While recent research has identified 4,000 daily steps as the magic number when it comes to walking to improve brain health. Dr. Rapin suggests that walking in time is sometimes a better way to make sure you’re moving enough each day.
“It is advisable to try to walk at least 30 minutes a day, but remember that 10 minutes is better than nothing,” he says. “The more you walk, the more likely you are to feel and see improvements, and it will start to feel easier.” Building a habit around walking will help you make it part of your daily routine, he says.
“Practice makes mastery, and the more we do something the better we get at it according to Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. Whether you live in a more urban or rural environment, there are many ways to walk more,” notes the Dr. Rabin “You can go to the same telephone pole every day and make it a ritual, listen to podcasts for a cooldown while you walk, walk with a pram, or use the walk as a time to call and check in. someone you love.” A Well + Good editor has turned her daily coffee run into morning walks and says it has helped her feel more clear-headed about her work. Anything that motivates you and gets you moving.
After the walk, show your body some attention with these recovery stretches that only take five minutes:
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