We’ve known that going out for more daily constitutionals is as good for your brain as it is for the rest of your body. In fact, a recently released study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that walking, along with other forms of moderate exercise, is proven to boost your creativity and inspire your imagination. An earlier study published in the journal APA PsycNet, in 2014, found that exercising more is actually linked to the ability to conjure more successful innovations.
In the latest scientific evidence linking your legs and your brain, a new study of cognitively impaired, older adults, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, has found that going out for brisk, half-hour walks promotes healthy blood flow to the brain and improves its cognitive performance, while boosting memory function. Read on for more about this study, and how you can take action to ensure that your own mind stays sharp. And for more advice for making the most of your walks, don’t miss the Major Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make While Walking, Say Experts.
It’s no secret that as you age your brain ages as well and can lose its sharpness. Your blood plays a key role here, say experts, as your heart weakens over time and your arteries harden up. The result? Your brain gets less blood flow, and less blood flow means less oxygen and other nutrients to your brain, which impacts function. For more tips for improving your brain health, make sure you’re avoiding The Worst Foods for Your Brain.
Studies, like this latest one—and a previously published study from 2013 in the Journal of Hypertension—have shown that older exercisers have healthier blood flow. The study in the Journal of Hypertension found that older men who were more active were able to produce better scores on cognitive tests.
For this new study, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center tested 70 men and women, all 55 years of age and older, who were known to be cognitively impaired. They were assigned fitness regimens, including brisk walks or stretching exercises, which they needed to perform three to five times every week for 30 to 40 minutes. Along the way, they wore the requisite heart monitors and were administered brain scans.
At the end of the study, of the 48 volunteers who completed the program, those who performed the aerobic exercise (including brisk walking, which started in a lab setting on a treadmill but eventually included outside walks) were revealed to have less stiffness in their necks’ blood vessels and more blood flow to their brain. (Other exercises included swimming, bike rides, or ballroom dancing.) Those who stretched did not experience the same result.
“This is part of a growing body of evidence linking exercise with brain health,” Professor Rong Zhang, Ph.D., a researcher in the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, remarked in the study’s official release. “We’ve shown for the first time in a randomized trial in these older adults that exercise gets more blood flowing to your brain.”
“They also performed better than the stretch-and-tone group on some of the tests of executive function, which are thinking skills involved in planning and decision-making,” observes The New York Times. “These tend to be among the abilities that decline earliest in dementia.”
Zhang notes to the NY Times that “it probably takes more time” than 12 months to see real results in better cognitive function from regular aerobic exercise, but he recommends that people “park further away” from their destinations when shopping and “take the stairs” whenever possible. And for more ways you can walk your way to better health, see this 20-Minute Walking Workout That Will Help You Get Fit and Burn More Fat.
Read on for More Great Exercise Routines from Eat This, Not That!